PHILOSOPHER and author of Romulus, My Father, Raimond Gaita, speaks of the Moolort Plains near Baringhup with a sense of the almost spiritual nature of the place.
“There is a rare beauty to the place, a calm beauty,” he said.
“The plains are more or less unchanged since I was a kid in the 1950s.
“They have nourished the souls of generations of people who have lived on or near to them.
“An artist in Maldon said the other day to me, that when things are getting on top of her, she goes to the plains.
“This place matters to me deeply.”
The Baringhup landscape became a central character in Gaita’s life.
His biographical memoir, first released in 1998 and made into a film starring Eric Bana in 2007, captured the importance of the land on his life. Key moments in the book relate to the way the river flowed, or how the hill shined on a particular evening.
“When I wrote Romulus, My Father, the sense of beauty I found in the plains affected the tone and rhythm of the book,” Gaita said.
“That was transferred into the film. The film was made with great love by everyone involved.
“That love was deepened by the fact they were out there on the plains before dawn to after dark.”
But this natural environment so dear to Gaita’s heart is under threat.
A broiler farm consisting of 24 sheds, each the size of the MCG, is currently proposed for a site about four kilometres from Baringhup’s town centre.
Gaita, like everyone in the Baringhup community, vehemently opposes the farm.
He opposes it because of the impact it will have on the community, the environment, and the “lack of respect shown for animal life”.
“This chicken factory is an abomination,” he said.
“I refuse to call it a broiler farm. It is not a farm. It is a factory which processes living things.
“I look at it differently from how I would look at sheds holding grain.
“Together with that, it’s the beauty this would spoil. It would pollute the area in every sense of the word.
“It will have a terrible effect on the village. And there are all the worries from an ecological point of view.”
So rather than stand by and watch his favourite part of the world be compromised, Gaita is doing something about it. He has organised the first fund-raiser for the Keep Baringhup Clean campaign for September 15.
There will be two screenings of Romulus, My Father, plus a two-course dinner with talks from Gaita, acclaimed author Alex Miller and Australian film producer and director Robert Connolly.
Gaita will also hold a talk before the first screening on the “cruel and degrading treatment of animals”.
The application is yet to be approved by Mount Alexander Shire but the group will need an estimated $50,000 if they have to fight it at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
Gaita is hoping the broiler farm applicant will abandon the idea before it gets to that point.
“I’m hoping the applicant will re-think his proposal. There are prestigious people very publicly in opposition to it who will continue to voice their opposition.
“I hope it doesn’t have to get to VCAT and the council opposes it.”
He said he will continue to fight with other Baringhup locals to keep their region unchanged.
“The impact of this on the landscape and the ecology of the plains would be hugely detrimental.
“I can’t stand by and see this happen.”