VCAT approves large piggery

OBJECTORS have failed in their bid to block the development of a 5000-head piggery east of Kerang, after taking the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. 

Gannawarra Shire Council granted Aeger Kingma's application for a planning permit in October last year, but the development has been on hold because of an appeal by 11 objectors, represented by neighbouring farmers Eric Boyd and Ian Cummins. 

The case was heard at VCAT on May 22 and 23 and on July 27 presiding member Christopher Harty ordered that a permit be granted. 

The 182-hectare site is located on the north side of the Murray Valley Highway, eight kilometres south-east of Kerang.

The objectors argued that a piggery should not be constructed on flood-prone land and that the property was inundated during the 2011 floods.

They were also concerned about noise, visual impacts, odour issues and the impact on the town water supply. 

The piggery will operate on a conventional sow farrow-to-finish model, with finished pigs turned off at about 19 weeks.

The piggery complex will include 12 pig sheds, a two-pond effluent treatment and evaporation system, manure storage, a composting pad for dead pigs, three town water tanks, feed silos, stock yards and an office building. 

The VCAT members gave extensive consideration to the risk of flooding on the site, part of which is subject to land subject to inundation and rural floodway overlays.

While buildings are not planned for the parts of the site affected by these overlays, both Mr Boyd and Mr Cummins were concerned that the overlay maps did not accurately reflect the extent of potential flooding. 

But the VCAT members referred to information from the North Central Catchment Management Authority indicating that the only areas flooded in January 2011 were those included in the LSIO and RFO. 

"We note the site is flat, but that the area proposed for the piggery is located outside of the area of the site affected by the RFO and LSIO," they said. 

They concluded that those factors, along with the site having been laser levelled and that there were no objections from the North Central Catchment Management Authority and Environment Protection Authority, meant flood risks were adequately addressed. 

They also found that a Gannawarra Shire Council condition for a 500 millimetre bank around the site would prevent contaminated run-off from entering the nearby Pyramid Creek. 

The objectors also submitted that the closest home was 1.03 kilometres from the site and there were nine homes within two kilometres and 16 homes within three kilometres. 

They expressed concern about the odour produced by up to 5000 pigs, and by the proposal to compost up to 35 tonnes of pig carcasses per year.

The VCAT members heard from environmental scientist Dr Terry Bellair, who said that Code of Practice for Piggeries guidelines stipulated a separation distance of 996 metres from dwellings.

"We accept Dr Bellair's evidence and agree that the impacts from odours will not be unacceptable or significant," they said. 

The objectors also questioned whether Kerang's reticulated water supply had the capacity to service the site, which falls within the North West Rural Water Supply Scheme footprint.

The VCAT members found that a Coliban Water cap of 30 kilolitres per day on the supply of water would adequately address any issues. 

The members ordered that a permit be granted once more detailed plans about the development, along with an Environment Management Plan, have been submitted to Gannawarra Shire Council.

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