Free-range piggery proposal fires up Gannawarra residents

The proposed outdoor pig farm is rotational, meaning the planned 68 paddocks will alternate between holding stock, growing pasture and being cropped to restore the soil. Photo by Cath Grey

A proposed rotational outdoor pig farm near Gunbower Creek, Gannawarra North, has caused a stir among locals.

Gannawarra Shire Council was due to make a decision regarding the pig farm’s future at the May council meeting, but deferred the decision to June after receiving a barrage of emails and calls.

In the council report, 46 objections to the pig farm were recorded, but it was noted many were factually incorrect.

This included claims that the pigs would smell (outdoor pigs don’t smell), old growth trees will be removed (the applicants will fence off native vegetation to protect from livestock), the piggery will have storage/holding ponds (only indoor piggeries produce liquid effluent) and that 30 to 40 workers will be accessing the site (there will be four workers).

The risk of Japanese encephalitis was also discussed, with a report from swine veterinarian Chris Richards included in the planning application to confirm there was no increased risk of Japanese encephalitis, which is spread by mosquitoes, not pigs.

Out of the seven Gannawarra Shire councillors, five voted to defer the approval of the pig farm until the June meeting, one voted against deferring and one abstained due to a conflict of interest.

The plan now is to organise a meeting between the councillors, the hopeful pig farmers and their objectors between now and the June meeting to discuss the issue further.

Cr Garner Smith was the one to suggest a meeting, saying he wanted to give objectors the best chance to state their case.

“It is really important we get this right,” Cr Smith said.

“I support business ventures in the shire, I would need a reason to object or to amend this application.”

Cr Keith Link said he’d seen similar face-to-face meetings succeed in the past.

“I’ve observed this with a very practical shire known as East Loddon,” Cr Link said.

“They all hopped in a bus with the applicants and protestors, and while there were a few (tense) moments, all the sides had their say and the long-term result is there has not been a complaint since.”

The proposed outdoor pig farm is rotational, meaning the planned 68 paddocks will alternate between holding stock, growing pasture and being cropped to restore the soil.

If successful, the farm will be operated by Western Plains Pork, an Australian-owned business with a reputation for high biosecurity and animal welfare within the pork industry.

A full report is in the May 18 Ordinary Council Meeting agenda (page 106) on the council’s website.