Anger over Mid West piggery plans

Rueben HaleThe West Australian
Dandaragan farmers, Kevin McLean and Christine Brown, who are outraged at plans to establish a piggery close to their farm boundary.
Camera IconDandaragan farmers, Kevin McLean and Christine Brown, who are outraged at plans to establish a piggery close to their farm boundary. Credit: Nic Ellis

Mid West farmers are up in arms over plans to build a 68,000-head piggery a short distance from their prime livestock and broadacre properties.

Commercial pig producer Westpork has submitted an application with the Shire of Dandaragan for planning approval to develop a $21 million piggery just 16km from Moora.

The proposal outlines two modules of housing for 2800 sows among 68,000 pigs, with a consideration to build a third.

Cattle grazing and cropping will also continue on the 1481ha property under a lease-back agreement to the previous owners.

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The new facility is expected to employ 50 full-time staff, with a further 25 joining the operation when the third module comes online.

Westpork runs piggeries on 10 properties in WA, with the new facility slightly bigger than its 65,000-head Gingin farm.

Moora farmer Christine Brown, who runs a mixed-enterprise farm with her husband Kevin close to the proposed piggery, has formed a group of protesting farmers who are extremely concerned about the proposal.

Mrs Brown said apart from odour and noise, the group was extremely worried about the potential for the contamination of the water in the catchment area.

“There will be an effluent ponds and burial pits uphill and less than 100m from local farms,” she said.

“We understand about eight tonnes of dead pigs, dead piglets and afterbirth will be buried in the pits each week and that creates a real contamination concern for us because the area is prone to flooding.

“We last had a major flooding event about eight years ago and water from the top of the hill, near to where the burial pit and sheds will be, flowed down the hill and over the farms into the base of the water catchment.

“This is the same water catchment that supplies water to the farms, orchards and towns in the area.”

Mrs Brown said it was also a quality-of-life issue for local farmers.

“We have had only a couple of weeks to digest a 350-page proposal document and organise a submission,” she said.

“It is the fear of the unknown and we don’t know what the long-term impact of what a piggery of this size is going to be.”

Norm Yukich, who cleared his family’s farm on the closest border to the proposed burial pits and sheds in 1973, said the discarded pigs and waste would attract pests.

“In no time at all, the foxes and wild dogs will be sniffing around it and trying to dig it up,” he said.

“Then there is also going to be rabbits, emus and birds that will be drawn into the area.”

But Westpork chief executive Neil Ferguson said he was confident his company could work with local farmers and the community to address any concerns they may have.

“The Department of Environment is currently assessing the work approval for the site,” he said.

“Aurora Environmental has designed the effluent management system with a strong focus on protecting the environment and minimising odour.

“The facility will operate under strict licence conditions placed on it by the Department of Environment and be monitored by the department on an ongoing basis.

“Piggery developments are always done in a multifaceted way to account for odour, animal welfare, contamination and other factors and there is a range of things that need to addressed in any planning application of this sort.”

Mr Ferguson said potential environmental impacts from water contamination and odour had been factored into the design of the facility.

“The ponds will be sealed in a contained effluent system and there will be no effluent escaping into the environment,” he said.

“It’s an anaerobic digestion process, which most piggeries use to break down the effluent streams.

“The burial pits will be lined and once they’re filled, they will be sealed. The system is designed to protect the groundwater.”

Mr Ferguson said the new piggery was being built to meet rising demand from the domestic market.

“This development formed a key part of Westpork’s long-term growth plans designed to meet the increasing demand for fresh pork from Australian consumers,” he said. “The piggery and its 5600 sows is a major investment in the area and the facility will be much smaller than several operations in the Eastern States, where there are piggeries housing between 10,000 and 25,000 sows.”

Mr Ferguson said Westpork planned to source construction materials locally and would also enlist local businesses for earthmoving, dam and road construction, plant hire and trades.

“The company had been approached by several local landowners seeking supplies of manure to help lift the productivity of their farms,” he said.

“Operation of the piggery would also boost indirect local employment and supply opportunities in areas such as housing and accommodation services, retail, education, food, entertainment and recreation services, health, medical and personal services, trades and administration.

“In addition to the direct employment and operating needs of the piggery, Economic Multipliers indicate considerable flow-on activity and specifically with up to a further 78 full-time positions created in the local and broader community as a consequence of the needs of the staff and operation of the piggery; and up to an additional $1.8 million in expenditure by businesses and services in the local and broader region.”

The council had invited submissions on the plan, which closed on Wednesday.

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