TURKEYS are a long way from cattle in the farming world but the two will happily co-exist following Council’s conditional approval of a $2 million poultry enterprise.
Proponents Ed and Lauren Wehbe are breathing a sigh of relief after receiving the tick for six sheds on their Gurrundah Rd property, 12km west of Goulburn. The ‘state of the art’ 150 metre long colorbond structures will eventually be home to 200,000 turkeys, grown in 19-week cycles, 2.5 times a year.
“We are pleased and excited and really proud of what we’ve put together,” Mr Wehbe told the Post.
“This is not something we’ve thrown together at the last minute. It has involved two years of research and work.”
The Wehbes moved to the Taralga district from Sydney 13 years ago. Five years ago they bought their current holding and ran cattle. Mr Wehbe said he was passionate about agriculture and looked for a “drought tolerant” enterprise he could continue all year round.
Councillors last Tuesday endorsed planners granting conditional consent, pending the Sydney Catchment Authority’s (SCA) approval.
Despite deep concerns by residents about water impact, the SCA had not returned comments on the development application. However planning director Chris Stewart told the Post he had liaised with the Authority all the way through and was comfortable that the farm would embrace recommended safeguards, including a fully enclosed wastewater system.
Residents are not so sure. The DA sparked five submissions, with many worried about water runoff.
Thomas Davies, speaking on behalf of his mother, Mary, who owns an adjoining property, told Tuesday’s meeting that she was not satisfied with the level of information.
“Our objection is the overflow of wastewater into the natural drainage area after washing out sheds,” he said.
Treated wastewater will be allowed to flow into a natural creek line that also meanders 1km through the Davies’ property. Mr Davies said there appeared to be no treatment of wastewater at a sediment pond and was concerned about pollution of what was essentially the Sydney catchment.
But Mr Wehbe told councillors on Tuesday that no contaminated water would leave the sheds. Litter would be removed first, then the sheds disinfected before water was released to sediment and bio-retention ponds for treatment.
Only then would it travel through the natural drainage system.
“Everyone would be concerned if we were just washing straight out of the sheds but we have to do extensive work before the water leaves the site,” he said.
Others, like Parkesbourne Rd resident Bill Muldrew, objected to the “inconsistency” of turkey farming in a predominantly grazing area. But he’s also worried about the passage of some 325 heavy vehicles a year over 22km of rural thoroughfares including Parkesbourne Rd and Gap Rd from the Hume Highway.
He argued extensive upgrades were needed, especially of narrow sections, and a safety test carried out on a singlelane bridge on Parkesbourne Rd, spanning the rail line.
Mr Muldrew said a route through Goulburn, which was “12km shorter,” was far safer and made more sense.
In response, Mr Wehbe told the Post a Roads and Maritime Service consultant had recommended the former as the best route.
The farm will receive turkey chicks from Inghams.
Mr Wehbe said the sheds would be ‘state of the art,’ incorporating thermal insulation panels for energy efficiency, designed for good airflow and spacious to ensure the birds’ welfare.
They’d be painted green to blend into the environment and set in a slight valley, away from road view. He’s also promised tree planting as a buffer but also to address neighbours’ concerns.
The development will be staged with two sheds to be built at a time. Mr Wehbe hoped to start construction within the next year.
“We want to move into the community, make friends and be proud of what we do. We don’t want to make enemies,” he told Tuesday’s meeting.