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Expansion south of blueberry industry could lead to job boom

Interest is growing in making blueberry cultivation as important around Urunga, Bellingen and Dorrigo as it is north of Coffs Harbour.
Interest is growing in making blueberry cultivation as important around Urunga, Bellingen and Dorrigo as it is north of Coffs Harbour. Jamie Brown

BLUEBERRY cultivation is well established on Coffs Harbour's northern beaches.

There's now growing momentum to spread the industry to the south and west of the city.

Advisors say the local industry has become so successful due to year-on-year increases of up to 30% in demand for the product.

Apart from part-time seasonal employment, the growth of the berry industry continues to create an increasing number of full-time jobs.

So many inquiries about establishing horticultural businesses are being directed to Bellingen Shire Council that an information sheet has been produced to answer the main questions asked by small scale to commercial growers.

The document mainly covers what is required for the establishment of blueberry growing ventures under the Bellingen Local Environmental Plan 2010 and what consent is required.

Blueberry farming is defined as 'horticulture' under the provisions of BLEP 2010 which is also defined as a form of 'intensive plant agriculture'.

Horticulture is permissible without development consent in a number of zones and the planting of the blueberry trees, and certain ancillary works, can take place.

Other crops covered by the horticulture definition include the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, nuts, cut flowers and foliage and nursery products for commercial purposes but does not include a plant nursery, turf farming or viticulture.

The definition of horticulture does not distinguish between particular types of fruit or vegetables.

Council is therefore unable to require that corn and potatoes be permitted (for example) while blueberries are prohibited.

There is strong belief a blueberry industry in the region could eventually outstrip the importance of potato growing on the Dorrigo Plateau, helped by outstanding soil quality.

The council also can help with information about water extraction and irrigation and what regulations are handled by the NSW Office of Water.

Topics:  bellingen shire council



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