Abattoir shock for family

By Geoff Adams

A young couple  thought they had found the ideal, quiet, rural location between Shepparton and Kyabram to raise their five children, but got a surprise when a neighbour told them what was planned for the area.

A  $30 million abattoir employing up to 120 people and processing up to 3000 sheep a day is proposed for the property that surrounds them at Gillieston, with the operation's centre about 500m away.

Kevan Horder and Cassandra Rowe bought the house on a small lot in Mulcahy Rd, over the road from a former dairy farm, in July last year.

"We bought in a farming area, so we're quite prepared for agriculture, with animals and machinery around us, but not for such a big operation like this,'' Mr Horder said.

They are among 13 objectors to the planning application by Meatworks Australia who are worried about how the sheep abattoir would affect the amenity of the area, with noise, dust, and odour issues.

But of particular concern is the danger of transmission of disease to their five children.

Ms Rowe, who has qualifications in animal health, is worried about zoonotic diseases like Q fever which can be passed from animals to people.

In her objection, she said human infection could occur by inhalation of infectious aerosols or of dust blown from contaminated soil, and this may occur over long distances, up to several kilometres.

The 160ha site is directly across the road and the associated property adjoins their northern and eastern boundaries.

Ms Rowe said they had first heard about the proposal from a neighbour in casual conversation and had not been officially informed of a consultation at Undera in May. They heard about it the day before through the media.

They have joined a new group, Gillieston Action Group, set up to contest the proposed abattoir.

The group is concerned about increased traffic movements, noise from sheep awaiting processing, yarding noise, security lighting for the 24-hour operation, odour from the industrial waste water and odour from the operation, including the thousands of sheep waiting for slaughter.

Farmer Luke Haines, who is a member of the new group, lives about 1km north east of the property on Lancaster-Mooroopna Rd and is concerned about odour that will travel on the south-western breezes, and the noise emanating from the 24-hour operation.He was also surprised that a large-scale commercial business could be allowed in a farming zone.

The company said measures proposed for the operation would reduce the risk of any Q fever on-site spreading off the site, to low."The potential risk from the identified zoonotic infections has been identified and best practice measures are implemented to ensure that, in each case, the overall risk level to the meatworks staff and contractors as well as to persons in the surrounding areas is low.''

*Late last week, the consultants who ran a consultation meeting in Shepparton released a report recommending the EPA engage experts to examine the dust and odour issues the operation could generate. The EPA should also ask for a report on any potential health hazard and seek information from the applicants on the total number of livestock the property may hold.