Letter to the editor

A proposed free-range piggery at Gannawarra has raised concerns. Photo by Cath Grey

Piggery concerns

Re: New planning application for 5000-head piggery at Gannawarra.

Gannawarra has a history of a 3000-head free-range piggery permit granted in 2011 and as such has set some precedence.

Objections were based on this operation and serious doubt exists about the adherence to the then imposed conditions.

In 2011, one of the objections was that Gannawarra Shire Council had no measuring device for this enterprise as there was no precedent in Gannawarra. Now we have had one for over 10 years.

The background to the application is that an ex-dairy farm is proposed to be converted to a free-range piggery.

Concern with this is the Gannawarra region is one of the best and most scenic in our shire.

The area still contains many good red gum and box trees.

This area also adjoins Gunbower Creek including Safes Lagoon.

Gunbower Creek is a nature paradise with an abundance of fish, wildlife and birds.

Indeed this area is listed as a Ramsar wetland with a bird colony across the creek on Gunbower Island also listed as a Ramsar bird breeding site.

Many conditions are imposed on the applicant but who is going to supervise these?

A lot of questions are raised as to why this piggery will be different to the previous dairy farm?

A dairy herd is herbivorous and graze grass quite peacefully.

Cows will coexist with ground dwelling native animals at this Gannawarra site like kangaroos and wallabies, emus, echidnas, koalas, bird life and reptiles.

Cows are also herded twice a day to be milked and are quite domesticated.

Cows’ effluent is, in the flush of the season, over 90 per cent water.

Pigs, however, are the direct opposite and are carnivorous and would decimate young animals as well as dig and root up the ground and create wallows.

Nothing will be left alive, neither worms, bardi grubs nor baby birds or vegetation. The proposed grazing pattern will also be such that huge amounts of intense effluent will be deposited.

Pig effluent is far more concentrated than cows’ due to the type of feed as well as to the digestion system of each species.

After a period of time the trees will likely die due to nutrient overload and chemical content. The porous permeable soils of the site will allow nutrients to be carried down to the root zone and the watertable.

Who is going to prove to us that this won’t affect the Gunbower Creek water and the Murray River confluence 3km downstream with a recently built fish ladder?

Another feature of this region is the turtle breeding site in the sandy areas around Safes Lagoon.

Other concerns expressed are smell, noise and dust, prevailing winds, watertable contamination, nutrient overload, effect on the natural habitat and waterways, Japanese encephalitis and Koondrook township.

Koondrook is a tourist destination with emphasis on this stretch of creek of passive recreation, walking, fishing, canoeing and water cruises.

An important role for council is to develop and promote Gannawarra as a destination for business, new residents and visitors.

One councillor stated early in the discussion “I would have thought there were more suitable sites in the shire than this”.

Keith den Houting, Kerang