The new NSW Farmers Far North Coast Branch (NSWFFNC), that will be representing farmers from the Tweed and Byron Shires, launched yesterday (Tuesday, 7 February) at the Murwillumbah Services Club.
Burringbar farmer Craig Huf is the first elected Chair of the new branch and told the gathering that the ‘formation of the branch hails an exciting new opportunity for farmers on the far north coast. It was formed primarily as a result of th evisionary thinking of the rura community who are driven by a desire to enhance the resilience, strength and future sustainability of the ag sector on the far north coast.’
Immediate past president of NSW Farmers James Jackson highlighted the important role that the organisation plays as a lobby group engaging with all parties to get the right outcomes for farmers.
Keeping our farmers
‘NSW Farmers is exactly what we make of it,’ he said. ‘We can shape it. It is a democratic organisation that listens to its grass roots. Shape the organisation to how you want it so that it reflects your views and so that it is what you want it to be.’
Key issues raised were around land use conflict and the struggle that farmers have expanding their lots as ‘the affluent from Sydney’s north share purchase full size operating farms to use as lifestyle blocks,’ said Mr Huf. ‘The prices they pay are well past the point of achieving an economic return for any neighbouring farmer seeking to expand.’
While land use conflict was a key issue they also raised the importance of farmers having a secondary income and highlighted the opportunities for ‘a sideline supplementary agritourism operation to help future proof the farm… and the ‘great untapped opportunities north coast farmers have [for] the demand for residences’. In particular, the cost of development application was highlighted and that the implementation of the agritourism SEPP had facilitated development on farms that would have previously been unviable.
‘The recent NSW state government measures allowing agritourism as complying or exempt development are very welcome… Local farmers are already utilising the like of Hipcamp to manage and bring outsiders to the shire.’
While the DA requirements for effluent, soil, ecology, geotechnical and Aboriginal heritage are seen as burdensome with these reports for a DA costing ‘around $50,000’ according to Mr Huf, both Byron and Tweed Shire councils had asked the state government or exemptions from the Agritourism SEPP. They were concerned with the lack of financial support from the state government in relation to the planning costs to councils of the SEPP, to be borne by all ratepayes, and the impact on the housing crisis and the potential ‘increase [in] illegal dwellings’.
Issues around weed control and farm access roads were also raised, again the cost and time frames of DAs were a key issue hindering progress and safety.
Mr Huf pointed out that they had spent over $35,000 on weed control this season with camphor and giant devils fig both thriving in the high rainfall environment.
Mr Huf said that rollovers are ‘by far our greatest workplace risk’.
He said a DA and wait time for two years to move forward with addressing road safety meant that addressing worksafe obligations in a timely way was ‘almost impossible to achieve’ under current regulations.
‘Policy makers must take part of the responsibility for the exit of farmers in the region’ said Mr Huf as he called for a reduction of ‘the burden of compliance’ on farmers.
‘If we can ease the burden of regulation and support local farmers, then more local produce will be available to all of us, and we will see less imported product on supermarket shelves, Ultimately, the benefit is for everyone.’
For more information on the NSW Farmers Far North Coast Branch email: [email protected] or register at NSW Farmers.