A financially and emotionally exhausted central Victorian community group has admitted defeat in the latest of a series of battles against broiler farms in the Moolort Plains.
The area, between Bendigo and Ballarat, currently houses 884,000 birds but a recent Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision to approve another 325,000-head broiler farm at Strathlea will increase that number to 1.2 million.
Residents group Save the Moolort Plains confirmed it will not challenge the VCAT decision in the Supreme Court after the Central Goldfields Shire took the legal fight to the state’s planning umpire.
Spokeswoman Marg Lewis said the group, some of whom were present at the VCAT hearing, had spent close to $200,000 in legal challenges over the years, supported via donations and fundraising.
The group is currently challenging a Supreme Court decision to approve a separate 1.2 million head broiler farm in Baringhup through the Court of Appeal.
A hearing was held in January with a decision likely by April and, if upheld, the area will have more than two million birds being produced each cycle.
“It’s distressing and disturbing for the community. It has been quite stressful and caused factions in the community which is really sad,” Ms Lewis said.
In her reasons for approving the latest broiler farm, VCAT presiding member Michelle Blackburn said the farm was unlikely to add to the odour already present from other agricultural uses in the area.
Ms Lewis said the “smell was the worst bit, you can’t get away from it when it’s around”, but it varied depending on the wind and the proximity of a home to the sheds.
“There's a core of people who through no fault of their own tell us that it’s a farming zone and we should get over it,” she said.
The group hoped to work with a recently appointed compliance officer for the Central Goldfields Shire Council, who will ensure permit conditions are being met.
Additionally, the Environment Protection Authority had recently appointed a dedicated odour officer for Central Goldfields, Loddon and Buloke Shires, Ms Lewis said.
“We are very concerned about expansion, we couldn't get a commitment from the company about no further expansion,” she said.
Grandview Poultry and the Central Goldfields Shire were contacted for comment.