How Much Do We Love Our Town?

Safety issue: Too many B-doubles on our narrow, winding Namoi River road.  Image courtesy

Safety issue: Too many B-doubles on our narrow, winding Namoi River road.
Image courtesy

I’ve always loved Strathfield, a historic property with wide, sweeping valleys and beautiful riverland, tucked between the ranges. At least twice daily I drive through its magnificence to access my farm. As I go through fields of waving grass, cattle resting by the water, horses lifting lazy heads, I recall that it has recently been purchased by a major intensive chicken producer.

With dismay, I try to envision seventy chicken sheds springing up like metal toadstools from what is now rich and productive farming land. I think of millions of chickens living out their short lives – dust and feathers – where generations of farmers have produced golden harvests of wheat and barley; baled an abundance of sweet-smelling hay; sowed emerald fields of oats to winter their cattle; and I grieve.

I feel strongly that this proposed development is inappropriate for this wonderful property. Chicken sheds can be built on unproductive land, leaving good soil free for traditional production. Strathfield has been selected for its situation and its water, with no consideration given to the unconscionable waste of an increasingly rare and precious commodity: prime agricultural land.

I worry that, on my way to town on our hitherto quiet country road, I will run the gauntlet of B-doubles and staff vehicles; and that on the way home I may encounter them going back again. I shudder at the thought of meeting one or more on any of a series of tight bends on the narrow strip of bitumen or gravel road. Multiple, narrow curves; steep waterways; school buses having to stop where the road is barely wide enough to pass in a car; this is totally inadequate for the volume of traffic that will be required to maintain this huge, unrealistic number of chicken sheds.

The prospective safety of all who travel this road, including our children, has been jeopardised and is now a major issue: One which I intend to pursue!

My heart goes out to the neighbours and those who’ve built their dream homes on small-acre lifestyle blocks along this scenic route. How could they not be horrified at the prospect of noisy trucks roaring past at all hours of the day and night, exhaust brakes screaming on the bends? What will have happened to their lifestyle that they’ve worked so hard to achieve? And their investments that have already been severely compromised?

And our Upper Namoi, pristine and beautiful: In the place where Harry Burrell studied platypuses frolicking in deep, clear pools, will we see huge pumps, sucking out the lifeblood of the river, reducing production even more for those dependent on it for their livelihood?

Manilla, too, will likely suffer increased water restrictions, amongst other ills. Our bridge, a marvel of modern engineering in the 1880s, while still an amazing structure, is inadequate for traffic flow in the 21st century. There will be noise, odour, protracted waiting, traffic snarls, prospective accidents and more. All the things we love about our town will be only nostalgic memories: life, as we know it in Manilla, will be over.

If you don’t like the above scenario, then I am happy to tell you that it does not have to be. If enough of us speak up, this development will not proceed.

I call on all who love Manilla to raise their voices before it is too late. Please join us in protesting an enterprise of a magnitude that can only be detrimental to the future  comfort and prosperity of our district.

The History of Manilla in the Pink

Pink Ribbon Month in Manilla. Image courtesy

Pink Ribbon Month in Manilla. Image by scottchan courtesy

Nine years ago, when Robyn, Belinda and Sarah from our council’s Manilla office hosted a Pink Ribbon breakfast, they had no idea how fundraising for Breast Cancer Research would take off in our little town.

The next year, they held it outdoors because it was a beautiful day. People responded amazingly, giving Robyn the idea to move it to her home, ‘Tandarra’, where husband Harry had set up a memorabilia museum. Morning tea became afternoon tea with lots of entertainments, music, raffles, charity auctions, stalls, exhibitions; and the whole thing became an institution.

Craig and Lucy at the grocery store became involved when their valued staff member, Jenny, was diagnosed with breast cancer. They decorated the shop, sold merchandise, held raffles and raised a massive amount for BCR.

Jenny helped me so much when I received my diagnosis. I will be forever grateful for her kindness and the honest answers she gave me while still having treatment herself. I am happy to say that she is well and working at the same store, although it changed hands when Craig and Lucy retired. It is, at this time, the only IGA store that decorates the shop, dresses staff in pink and raises money for cancer research. Maybe the rest will follow this shining example.

Other businesses in town got on board, and, for years, have spent this week in October decorated in pink. It is quite wonderful to go shopping and see, in almost every shop, staff dressed in pink shirts or aprons (men and women) and pink ribbons and mementos for sale on behalf of BCR.

Last year, the stakes were raised. A full month was dedicated to fundraising; the whole town going Pink for October. This year, we plan to do it again, only bigger and better.

Our Pink Ribbon afternoon tea, hosted by Robyn and Harry, will be held at ‘Tandarra’, Barraba Rd., Upper Manilla on 12th October, from 1pm. Entry $5. All money raised goes to BCR. I will be in my usual spot, selling raffle tickets. (Lots of prizes, drawn at 3pm.)

Of course, all this effort would be for nothing without the dedicated support of the Manilla citizens spending their time and hard-earned dollars, but Manilla is a town that punches far above its weight when it comes to giving. More than $30,000 dollars have been raised for BCR since that first morning tea and I am proud to belong to such a caring community.

Manilla in the Pink: the signature of a little town with a big, warm and very generous heart.