On Thursday, February 12, along with 100 Kernot residents and others, we crowded into the Kernot Hall.
Concerned at the application of the Yoyou Dairy, a subsidiary of the Chinese Ningbo Dairy Group, to set up a free-stall feeding barn, bottling plant, cool store and parking areas at the Glenview Farm, 1010 Loch-Kernot Road, Kernot, those attending had a lot of questions they wanted answered.
Bass Coast Shire Council’s Developmental Services manager, Rebecca Mouy ran the meeting and Jon McNaught, Gippsland Manager for GHD, a global consulting company handling the application, presented the applicant’s proposal for the 560 acre property where currently 400-500 cows are being milked.
He said Phase 1 was to install a bottling plant to take milk from the current cows, test the market and, with increased demand, increase the output of cows on the property.
To do this, Option 1, the preferred option, was to increase the number of cows on the property to 1000.
Option 2 was to buy milk from neighbours.
The consultant then outlined concerns already raised about employment, truck movements, water, animal health, noise and odour and how they would be handled.
Many questions revealed the practical and local knowledge of the farmers present. For instance, they were unable to accept that the two bores already on the farm and the use of recycled water would be sufficient to cover the water needed for the proposal.
Members of the Fire Brigade, conservation and animal protection groups also asked questions
One man pointed out, “When bringing in milk from other farms, it becomes an industrial site.”
Jon McNaught answered: “If Option 2 is needed, there would need to be a second application because they’re in a farm zone.”
A woman asked, “How can they build a huge plant if it’s proposed for only one farm’s milk?”
Jon McNaught replied, “There’s interest in building other plants if it’s not allowed here.”
A second consultant stated that they had studied best practice from around the world and the applicant would be applying best practice found in countries such as Canada and the US.
A questioner pointed out, “Many local farmers try for best practice on their farms. Unlike us, other countries mentioned have very cold winters. They have intensive farming. We don’t need those numbers in the Bass Valley Basin, a food bowl.”
Farmers pointed out problems with stockpiling huge quantities of solids (cow dung) from washing out the barns and then using it to fertilise the farm. As large parts of the property suffer from inundation over months of the year, a questioner wondered about the odour from the stockpiles.
When another person questioned the effect of the construction on the visual effect, Rebecca Mouy said they would have to look at the landscape overlay.
A huge concern was the proximity to Bass River. One farmer pointed out that if the farm was spread with fertiliser from the stockpile and 300 acres of the farm went under water, the fertiliser would run down with the overflow into the Bass River.
Westernport Water managing director, Murray Jackson also asked if the effect on the health of the Bass River on which people depended had been assessed and asked, “Hasn’t anyone seen a Big Wet here?”
A man pointed out that power transmission lines had been put underground. “It was recognized that environmentally this area has significance,” he said. This [the proposed farm use] does not fit in this state.” Loud applause broke out.
Rebecca Mouy responded, “Don’t assume anything has been decided.”
When a woman asked if the cattle would calve in the two front paddocks, Jon McNaught said they would calve at the Tenby Point property.
“How many trucks would that involve?” the woman further asked. “How many would have to come via the bridge [near the Kernot Store]?”
Another woman asked to make a statement. “I’m against factory farms – Australia has best practice here. We don’t need US and Canada examples.” Rousing applause followed.
Rebecca Mouy said, “Your concerns are valid. We will be back to follow up some of your concerns.”
Hopefully, all unanswered questions will be answered at the next public meeting and all issues addressed or the site declared inappropriate for the proposed development and the application refused.
Meryl Tobin, Grantville.
Questions and concerns