THE Weir family, certified seed potato producers on the outskirts of Crookwell, have major concerns about the proposed rail trail running through their property.
They are one of several families in the area raising biosecurity risks of the Goulburn to Crookwell recreation trail.
The late Max Weir began growing seed potatoes in the 1940s. His son Kim and grandson James have continued that business to this day.
“Crookwell is quite unique, for we are one of few areas worldwide to be free of major potato viruses,” Mr Weir said.
Crookwell, as a designated quarantine area, has helped to maintain a high standard of potato production.
Mr Weir said it was important to note how close the rail trail was to the family’s crops.
“This will have disastrous effects on future production,” he said.
“Our local field inspector is the only person to enter our crops during the growing period.
“The inspector arrives in clean clothes, his shoes are disinfected on arrival and departure.
This is part of the bio-security protocol.
These paddocks are treated as restricted areas.
“In our five-year plan, major investments have been made to secure our future in certified seed production.”
The rail line runs about 1km through the Weir property.
“The thought of thousands of bikers and trail users being within metres of our crops would be unacceptable,” he said.
“...I firmly believe Council has overlooked the vast amount of money that the potato industry has provided to local businesses and the community over the past 50 to 60 years.
“There is no reason why this won’t continue well into the future with a new generation of young growers coming through in each of our potato growing families, and as long as our industry maintains a high level of disease free status.”
He anticipated a “multimillion lawsuit” in the event of a biosecurity breakdown.
“If the rail trail proceeds you will take away the ability to be a ‘clean seed growing area’.
Those responsible in the decision making process will be held accountable,” Mr Weir said.
“This situation is so ironic to us as we have always been afraid of our livelihood being destroyed by an influx of aphids or other such means of sabotaging our quarantine area.
“Yet the destruction looks more likely to come from people, people who don’t understand our business and the uniqueness of our area, or just don’t care.”
As a former president of the Crookwell Potato Association Geoff Fahey is one of the most successful growers of certified seed in the Crookwell district.
He endorsed Mr Weir’s views.
“I believe all agricultural land suitable for growing seed potatoes could be greatly devalued if we lost our status as ‘seen to be clean’” Mr Fahey said.
Crookwell Potato Association president Matthew Gay agreed.
“Our seed potato industry in Crookwell is extremely strong, mostly because we are disease and virus free,” he said
“This just didn’t happen. It has come about by hard work and determination.
“...The rail trail could potentially ruin livelihoods as well as have a huge impact directly on Crookwell “