Concern over Bellingen dairy plans

WHEN Raleigh Dairy Holdings (RDH) first turned up in the Bellingen Shire with plans to change the face of local dairying, Joe Pearce was part of the process. Now he is one of many worried local residents.

“At that time we were working with LandCare and the Catchment Management Authority on a model that really took the dairy industry forward,” Mr Pearce said.

A change of plans however saw Mr Pearce parting company with RDH due to ‘ethical differences’.

Now the company has put forward two development applications to consolidate its dairies in both Yellow Rock and North Bank Road and Mr Pearce is part of the newly formed ‘No Feedlot Alliance’.

Yesterday more than 30 residents gathered for an initial meeting of the group, which is a consortium of community groups including the Bellingen Environment Centre and the North Coast Environment Council.

First and foremost the group wants the application’s public exhibition period extended by another month.

“This massive volume of documentation (1600 pages) accompanying these proposed dairy feed pad developments will take a long while to read and understand – we are calling for a minimum one month extension,” Mr Pearce said.

Raleigh resident Meredith Marsden said she was worried about the potential for disaster with floods, the smell, the flies and the traffic.

“This is all a bit alarming,” Ms Marsden said.

North Bank Road residents James Shearer and Camilla Bird said they were concerned about practices at the North Bank Dairy.

“The road is treated as a cow path – who will pay for these repairs?” Mr Shearer said.

Another resident, Ricky van der Zwan, said Bellingen had worked hard to keep big business out of the shire and now there was an ‘industrial farming proposal’.

“How will this impact on local dairy farmers – the impact would be economic as well as environmental,” Mr van der Zwan said.

RDH manager Stuart Brander said the New Zealand Company had looked at various options before deciding to establish their dairy business in the Bellinger Valley.

“We believe our consultants have properly investigated all the issues surrounding our operation and the new development will be state-of- the-art, minimising risk to the land and the river,” Mr Brander said.

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