Green light for chicken farm despite concerns

TOYAH SHAKESPEAREAlbany Advertiser

A $9 million chicken farm with a 5.5km frontage along the upper Kalgan River has been given approval, despite objections from neighbours concerned about river contamination and the number of trucks that will frequent the area.

The Great Southern Joint Development Assessment Panel met on Monday to consider a proposal put forward by Margaret River company Rokeby Road Nominees which will be contracted to supply birds to Mt Barker Free Range Chickens, owned by Milne Agrigroup.

The 602ha property is a former tree farm in Napier, located among 40.5ha lifestyle properties and provides accommodation.

Three lots of six sheds are slated to be built, with each pod incorporating a water tank, storage shed, back-up power generator and communications infrastructure.

The farm will have a total production capacity of 675,000 chickens each cycle, with six growing cycles a year.

Each shed will contain 37,500 chickens, delivered to the site as day-old chicks and held until ready-for-consumption age of 56 days.

After two-and-a-half hours, the DAP rubber-stamped the proposal.

Julie and Grant Gunn, owners of a property next door to the development, are concerned about the effect the farm may have on the environment, and odours.

“Just think of all the businesses, all the people, all the flora and fauna that is all going to be impacted by this chicken manure — the nitrates in it will run into the river,” Mrs Gunn said.

“The environment is connected by the river, so people all the way to town will be affected; it might take a couple of years but it will happen.”

As part of the proposal, the intersection of Moorialup Road and Granite Hill Road will be re-designed to cater for heavy vehicles, and a section of Granite Hill Road will be widened. It is anticipated that 1140 to 1542 vehicles will visit the site each year, including 60 three-tonne trucks a year and between 976 and 1290 B-double prime mover trucks.

Mrs Gunn said she was also concerned roadworks would damage rare flora such as mallee, banksia and hakea, and she was worried about four school buses that travelled along the usually quiet Moorialup Road.

Albany resident John Stone said the development would negatively affect nearby properties in Napier.

“These six family owned lifestyle blocks are smack bang in the way of this; I know that all are concerned about the night-time transport noises and the chicken farm smells,” he said.

Albany City Council Kalgan candidate John Jamieson said it “concerned him greatly” that little time had been given to residents to understand the project and respond with a written submission.

Rokeby Road Nominees’ Mark McAuliffe said the residents did not need to be concerned about odour because the company would manage it through high-technology sheds with 300 mini-vents controlled by a computer.

Mr McAuliffe said the waste would be composted because he hoped to return the property to cropping and grazing.

Milne Agrigroup general manager David Plant said the company would step in if Rokeby Road Nominees did not meet welfare or environmental standards.

“Milne are very responsible for what happens on the farm, we can walk in and take over if issues of welfare are not adhered to,” he said.

“We are concerned with resistance from the local community.”

City senior planning officer Tom Wenbourne said there were no objections to the proposal by the Department of Water, Department of Parks and Wildlife and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mr Wenbourne said the City had no statutory requirement for public consultation, although they decided to mail letters to neighbours anyway.

Councillor Don Dufty said the panel assessment was a successful outcome.

“The proposal has been considered thoroughly and the buffer zone is enough,” he said.

“I don’t believe that there will be a serious impact on the environment.”

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