Farm­ers bat­tle zone fight

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - News -

THE Cud­gen farm­ing com­mu­nity has hit back af­ter a decade-old pe­ti­tion resur­faced which saw farm­ers urge the State Govern­ment to re­zone Cud­gen farm­land, say­ing it was no longer of state sig­nif­i­cance.

In the pe­ti­tion, first sub­mit­ted to Tweed Shire Coun­cil and the NSW Govern­ment in June 2008, Cud­gen landown­ers urged the State Govern­ment to re­zone their land as res­i­den­tial, say­ing it was “strug­gling to main­tain the wor­thi­ness of its State Sig­nif­i­cant clas­si­fi­ca­tion”.

“It should no longer be con­sid­ered sus­tain­able or vi­able as farm­land,” the pe­ti­tion read.

Rea­sons listed in­cluded the “over sup­ply” of sweet pota­toes at mar­ket which re­sulted in “re­duced re­turns”, in ad­di­tion to “es­ca­lat­ing rental costs” and the “Cud­gen plateau’s drainage net­work be­ing over­grown”.

The pe­ti­tion is in stark con­trast to the Cud­gen farm­ers’ cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, which has much of the com­mu­nity fight­ing against the de­ci­sion to build the new Tweed Val­ley Hospi­tal on prime agri­cul­tural land.

One of the sig­na­tures on the pe­ti­tion was that of Doug Pad­don, who has been a driv­ing force be­hind the hospi­tal fight, along with his son James and his daugh­terin-law Hay­ley.

NSW Health Min­is­ter Brad Haz­zard told the Tweed Daily News it was “very dif­fi­cult to rec­on­cile what Mr Pad­don is ar­gu­ing when he wanted the area cov­ered in res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties” 10 years ago.

“Mr Pad­don said the land was un­vi­able as farm­land, but to­day has a dif­fer­ent view, which is that it’s now land that has a par­tic­u­lar agri­cul­tural value,” Mr Haz­zard said.

When asked about sign­ing the pe­ti­tion, Mr Pad­don said his “hands were tied” as he was rent­ing land from some­one in­volved in the pe­ti­tion at the time.

“I didn’t want to rock the boat and lose the ground I had be­cause it was pretty good ground,” he said.

Mr Pad­don said there were three rea­sons he had since done a “back­flip”.

He said a bad drought 10 years ago meant farm­ers had lost the abil­ity to plant more crops, while the Beau­re­gard type of sweet potato they were grow­ing at the time took three years to grow, com­pared to the two it takes now with a dif­fer­ent va­ri­ety.

An ex­pen­sive new bore water sys­tem also meant his farm no longer needed to rely on its dam catch­ment.

Mr Pad­don said most of the peo­ple signed the pe­ti­tion to “get a higher price for their land” be­cause “they weren’t in­ter­ested in farm­ing on”.

He said most of those farm­ers had now sold their land and moved on.

“Most of those farm­ers that signed it didn’t have a gen­er­a­tion to pass it on to, but now we’ve got a lot of young farm­ers all around 40 years old that are keen to farm on,” Mr Pad­don said.

“Those farm­ers back then prob­a­bly didn’t jump the hoops in terms of keep­ing the farms vi­able, they were reluc­tant to buy new trac­tors and other gear, the money we’ve put in is fright­en­ing: hun­dreds of thou­sands to stay vi­able.”

Mean­while, a sec­ond com­mu­nity meet­ing to dis­cuss the site se­lec­tion will be held at 7pm on Thurs­day, April 26 at Cud­gen Leagues Club. Fed­eral MP Jus­tine El­liot, state MP Ge­off Provest and Tweed Shire Coun­cil­lors are ex­pected to at­tend.

Or­gan­iser Hay­ley Pad­don said she was “happy” coun­cil had “got­ten on board” and voted last week to re­quest of the NSW Govern­ment “in the strong­est terms” the cho­sen site be ex­cluded from the se­lec­tion process. She said she was un­aware un­til last week of the pe­ti­tion her fa­ther-in-law had signed: “I wasn’t even aware of the doc­u­ment and my sig­na­ture wasn’t on it.” - By Rick Koenig

PHOTO: SCOTT POWICK

FIGHT­ING BACK: Hay­ley, James and Doug Pad­don are the farm­ers lead­ing the charge against the new hospi­tal be­ing sited on farm land at Cud­gen.

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