Community involvement critical to regional development
There's just over six months to the next state election and NSW Farmers President Xavier Martin has called on bureaucrats and governments to work hand-in-hand with country communities.
With the state government recently releasing the Six Cities Discussion Paper – which outlined an amalgamated 'mega-city' taking in Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong – Mr Martin said it was critical to make sure agricultural land wasn’t seen as a cheap resource for urban expansion. While the Six Cities plan included affordable housing and job creation as a key priority for the future, many in the bush feared the end result would be more big city investment at the expense of the country.
Speaking at a major agricultural field days event at Henty in the Riverina, Mr Martin said too often big business and decision makers missed how critical farming was to their everyday life.
“In the hustle and bustle of Sydney, they can lose sight of the fact that their coffee and bacon and egg roll required a grain grower and a poultry farmer, a piggery and a coffee plantation, a dairy farm and a whole lot of sugar cane,” Mr Martin said.
“There were a lot of hours and a lot of work that went into producing all of that food, (they need to remember) that their daily bread is the result of hard work on good soil with just the right amount of water.
“Our productive agricultural land is one of our most precious resources; take it away, and you see towns wither and die.”
Mr Martin said one of the big challenges facing agriculture was the relatively cheap price of land compared to that of Sydney, which he called “astronomical”.
“They look at all these big, wide fields and think: ‘well surely we could take a bit of that canola out and put some solar panels in’,” he said.
“But the problem is that once you build on that canola field you’ll never grow anything on it again.
“It is absolutely critical that we get that recognition of the value of agricultural land baked in to planning processes right from the very start, before some developer goes cruising out to the country to find a cheap spot for a solar installation.”
With six months until the next state election, Mr Martin said there needed to be a change to the decision making process to ensure it built the right thing, in the right place, and importantly, in the right way.
“Agriculture is not just another industry like mining or forestry or construction; several times a day every single person on this planet consumes an agricultural product, farms are food,” Mr Martin said.
“We will continue to advocate for consideration of agricultural production before anyone considers putting a big city shovel into a farm, so we can do the most possible with this precious land we have.”
Friday, September 23, 2022
Steve Mudd | 0429 011 690 | [email protected]