Farmers in road rage

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Jenne BrammerCountryman
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A group of Mingenew landholders whose roadside land is under threat of being resumed by Main Roads WA are hoping for a favourable outcome, following a meeting with Transport Minister Dean Nalder in Perth last week.

The landholders have been at loggerheads with Main Roads for the past two years over its proposal to reclaim around 30m on either side of a 15km stretch along the main Mingenew-Morawa Road — totalling around 45ha.

East of the Agar-Mingenew-Morawa intersection there is a proposal for Main Roads to resume up to 60m into a paddock of rich red clay.

Farmers affected include Geoff Yewers, son Darren Yewers, Jim Milloy, and Kevin and Betty Heitman.

Mr Milloy said Main Roads wanted to reclaim land in order to widen that stretch of road, arguing it was necessary for safety purposes.

However the farmers said the argument was unnecessary and irrational, given that Main Roads records show there had been no accidents on most of the strip being targeted.

“Main Roads’ records show there have been no accidents between Yongarloo Road and Burma Road, and the next section between Burma Road and Yamma Pool Road,” Mrs Heitman said.

“There is a need for some work at the Franco Road T-section, but most of the accidents occur west of the Agar Road intersection, which is only receiving a little attention in the proposal.”

Mr Milloy said another reason cited by Main Roads for targeting the land was the need to amend the road to create better drainage along that strip.

However, he said this was unnecessary as the change in farming practises and climate change meant flooding had not been an issue around this road for 30 years.

The group also argued against Main Roads’ rationale that the road needed to be altered to cater for bigger tonnages in the future.

“At the peak of the mining boom that road was taking far more tonnages than at present,” Mr Heitman said.

“At its peak it was taking 200 tonne an hour in iron ore, every hour, 24 hours a day. That’s 4800 tonnes a day, and there were still no safety issues.”

Mrs Heitman said resuming this highly productive wheat growing land would strip the farmers, and the State, of future income.

She said based on the total 44.84ha of land being targeted, with a long-term wheat yield of 2.2 tonnes a hectare, and average long term wheat price of $310, that would amount to a loss in gross income of an average $30,581 a year.

Mr Yewers said although the farmers had been told they would be compensated, they were not interested in a one-off payment, preferring instead to hang on to their productive land.

Mr Yewers said the road widening and compensation for farmers would be at the WA taxpayers’ expense, yet was totally unnecessary.

The farmers’ battle with Main Roads was supported by their local MPs, Moore MLA Shane Love and Agricultural Region MLC Paul Brown, who joined them in the meeting with Mr Nalder in Perth last week.

Mr Yewers said the group felt confident after Mr Nadler agreed to review the situation.

He said Mr Nalder did not indicate a time for which he would be in contact.

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