Battle to protect prime farmlands
By NERIDA BLOK
TULLERA banana grower Jeff Larsson is frustrated by the process used to classify North Coast land into areas of agricultural importance. Mr Larsson's 200-hectare property has been moved from 'regional' to 'state' significant land under the NSW Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources' (DIPNR) revised 2003 Farmland Protection Project draft maps. The pilot project, co-ordinated in partnership with the Department of Primary Industries (DPI), aims to protect prime farmland from urban and rural residential development. Mr Larsson said he agreed with the philosophy, but stressed that if land was to be made state significant, it should fit set criteria. "I'm not against locking up good land for future generations, but ours is 80 per cent unproductive rock," Mr Larsson said. He said land classed 'state' significant could be locked up indefinitely. "It's the inflexibility of it," he said. "It could be for 200 to 300 years." Mr Larsson says there has been a lack of consultation with Tullera and Modanville farmers over the mapping. "It was based on soil types, yet I know of no farmer around here who had a soil profile taken," Mr Larsson said. "They are comparing us with the plateaus of Wollongbar and Alstonville, which is just crazy." DIPNR staff were unavailable for comment this week, but DPI agricultural environment officer assisting with the project, Rik Whitehead, acknowledged the limitations of the mapping. "The mapping is intended to identify large continuous areas of important farmland and covers 800,000 hectares," Mr Whitehead said. "So it is difficult to identify every alleged inaccuracy." He said the boundaries of state and regionally significant were plus or minus 100 metres, so some areas would inadvertently fall under state. "But we expect most to be correct," he said. Mr Whitehead said submissions received by September 30 would be assessed and considered by the DIPNR's technical team at Grafton.