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Council approves contentious pig farm

The pig farm has approval to stock up to 5000 pigs, which will span three separate properties and 439 hectares. Photo by Ray Sizer

Protestors are vowing to go to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal after the planning permit for an outdoor rotational piggery was approved in Gannawarra.

Gannawarra Shire Council met on Wednesday, June 15, to vote on the planning permit which seeks to establish a piggery on a former 600-head dairy farm that backs onto Gunbower Creek.

The piggery had received full approval from Goulburn-Murray Water, DELWP, Agriculture Victoria and North Central Catchment Management Authority, and was permitted under Gannawarra Shire’s planning scheme, leaving council with no substantive reason to reject the application.

Council voted to approve the permit 3-2.

Two councillors, Garner Smith and Ross Stanton, abstained from the vote due to conflicts of interest.

The four remaining councillors were split 2-2 on the vote, leaving Gannawarra Shire Mayor Charlie Gillingham to cast the deciding vote to approve the planning permit.

“Democracy just happened then,” Cr Gillingham said after the vote was completed and a gallery of locals at the meeting began to protest the outcome.

“Everyone is allowed to have an opinion and I congratulate council on making a decision.”

Cr Gillingham described the piggery as an “approved agricultural business in an approved farming zone”.

“And as Cr Link mentioned, this will be the most scrutinised business in the Gannawarra. I can assure you there will be people looking over the fence every day,” he said.

The outdoor rotation piggery will be run by Western Plains Pork, which will move the pigs off the farm after a two-year period to crop and grow pasture.

The proposed farm will stretch between Cohuna-Koondrook Rd and Gunbower Creek in a developed agricultural area. The red dot on the creek is a kayak launch point used by tourists. Photo by Daneka Hill

WHAT THEY SAID

FOR:

Councillors Travis Collier and Keith Link voted for the piggery.

Cr Collier said he’d removed all emotion from his decision making process — including fear about being taken to VCAT and being made to cover the legal costs.

“I do have concerns around dust, however I am prepared to put my trust in the applicant (farmer) that he will manage that, as will our council staff,” Cr Collier said.

“This property is a farming zone and it has been ticked off by the relevant authorities (for approval).”

Cr Link noted DELWP and North Central CMA had both provided letters stating they had no objections to the pig farm application.

AGAINST:

Councillors Kelvin Burt and Jane Ogden voted against the piggery.

Cr Ogden said it did not make sense to approve a pig farm when it would sit next to a Ramsar wetlands and Safes Lagoon, where fishing and kayaking occur.

Cr Burt said he had nothing against piggeries, but he needed to question whether the farm benefited the broader community.

“Gannawarra (Shire) has spent a lot of money on tourism in the Koondrook area. Putting a piggery next to the forest — does that fit into our tourism policy? I don’t think so. That’s why I’m voting it down,” Cr Burt said.