Strathfield Development: Environmental Disaster?

Environmental issue: flooded creek crossing in Strathfield making Crow Mountain Road impassible. This creek drains the paddocks where most of the chicken sheds will be situated.

Environmental issue: flooded creek crossing in Strathfield making Crow Mountain Road impassable. This creek drains the paddocks where most of the chicken sheds will be situated. Note debris in rising water. Photo:Geraldine Wrench

Here I am in Strathfield, once again, contemplating with horror the proposed intensive development, housing almost three million chickens! I cannot bear that this jewel of our district, formerly resplendent in amber, gold and emerald, is about to be reset in ugly, grey metal and filthy odours.

Will my daily route pass bins of dead birds awaiting collection for disposal? The putrefying remains of those whose delicate systems are unable to survive such crowded conditions, even for the short eight weeks they are given: the unbearable stench an ironic substitute for the fresh country scents of summer grasses and drying hay.

Over seventeen years of daily travel, I have seen Strathfield in many guises: A changing tapestry according to the season. At winter sunrise, glittering rainbow-bright with frost, a mundane pipe-leak transformed into a magical crystal fountain; shadowed and silvery in moonlight; literally, in rain, hail and shine. But never have I seen it ugly!

Strathfield is dry now, its great centre-pivots and lush fields nothing but longed-for memories. Strangely, in what amounts to famine, my thoughts turn to flood. I wonder if the developers have taken into account Strathfield’s unique geographical setting which makes it subject to huge cloudbursts, causing severe local flash-flooding? This phenomenon has to be seen to be believed: the sheer volumes of water mind-boggling. And the roar is deafening.

Would effluent pools or dams have the capacity to deal with amounts of this magnitude? Definitely not possible! They would overflow in minutes!

Torrents racing down the hillsides; waterfalls gushing from high gullies, gaining impetus as they spread out, flooding paddocks and roaring into creeks to carry debris into the river, a few short kilometres away. Anyone familiar with Strathfield knows of these sudden, spectacular inundations during the storm season.

I have witnessed this remarkable occurrence several times, driving through water up to the door sills as the road becomes a river(Yes, hills and all!), all the way to the creek that drains the paddock where forty-two of the proposed seventy sheds will be situated. The creek rises with terrifying speed, and then we have to wait … and wait …

Do the developers know this? Do they care? If not, we must do the ‘caring’ for them.

Since this creek dumps the water (and whatever else it gleaned on its journey across the paddocks) into the river above the Manilla water supply and directly into Harry Burrell’s platypus pool, the risk of pollution is not just too great it is inevitable!

For this reason alone the incredible volumes of water involved in a matter of minutes I believe the proposed development should not go ahead. The property is unsuitable for intensive production.

Strathfield is a historic and beautiful prime agricultural property with a unique microclimate: A bright jewel of our district. Please help us keep it in its true setting. Say ‘No!’ to this heart-breaking development.

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.