Last farmer standing battles great development squeeze

ONGOING ISSUE: Bevan McMartin is having a battle with Sunshine Coast Council over plans for his farmland.
ONGOING ISSUE: Bevan McMartin is having a battle with Sunshine Coast Council over plans for his farmland. Warren Lynam

THEY own the last commercial farm in Bli Bli and now they feel like they're being pushed out by development.

Bli Bli's McMartin family has been farming in the area for 70 years and their strawberries became a household name across the Sunshine Coast.

In the last decade the McMartins, including Lillian, Graham and their son Bevan, have seen the farmland that surrounds them sold off to developers and transformed into housing estates.

They're determined to hang off and pursue the profession they love.

But Bevan McMartin said the family was at loggerheads with Sunshine Coast Council which he feels was more interested in development than helping farming continue.

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Last cane burn for Bli Bli cane family, the Suosaari's. Michael Suosaari in front of probably the last field of cane he would burn on his family farm.
Last cane burn for Bli Bli cane family, the Suosaari's. Michael Suosaari in front of probably the last field of cane he would burn on his family farm. Brett Wortman

Mr McMartin said the council advised this would only be allowed if the family agreed to a stormwater easement on a completely different property, also owned by them.

The stormwater easement would allow adjacent developers building housing estates to use the land for their run off and avoid the flooding that occurred on the McMartin's farm in 2011.

"It is totally ridiculous," Mr McMartin said.

"They want easements over a drain on our property that has nothing to do with boundary realignments.

"They want the easements so the developer can come straight in and dump their water."

The McMartins, who own around 81ha in the Bli Bli area, have watched farms swallowed up around them and turned into housing estates.

"To the western side of us is Parklakes 1 (a housing estate), the southern side is about to go under subdivision too," Mr McMartin said.

"Another two farms have been bought out with 180 houses in their roughly.

"We are being pushed out by developers, it is the way the council wants it by the looks of it."

Mr McMartin said the family didn't want to stop development, but wanted to make sure it was "done right".

"We are not trying to stop them, we want to continue farming so we don't get flooded out."

He noted the council had the power to resume the land in question, but "then they will have to pay for it".

"We want to grow more sugar cane. We have been farming as a family for 70 odd years.

"We want to continue farming, that's what we do.

"Most of the land we own is flood plain and there is not much else to do but sugar cane.

"We are trying keep the place clean and green, people have to eat, they need us farmers to put sugar and food on the table or everyone is going to starve.

"And we are wanting to do this. We are in an appropriate area, but they are trying to squeeze us out and its not on.

"The want to dump all their water on our land and turn it into a lake basically.

"It will have a huge impact on the farm."

Strawberries at the McMartin farm.
Strawberries at the McMartin farm. Lou O'Brien

Mr McMartin said since people moved into residential blocks in the area, it appeared they "don't like farming".

"No one likes farms, we burn sugar canes and the ash goes into their pools, but we have to do this.

"It is like someone moving beside an airport and then complaining about planes.

"They also complain about the dust. Some people appreciate it, but the majority see us a nuisance.

"They also think they have the right to wander over our land because they feel like it.

"When confronted, they say we have plenty of room, but hang on, I don't walk in their backyard.

"Kids ride their motorbikes and stuff through it and it is dangerous as we do come out of the sugar cane on tractors and we can't see them.

"Someone could get killed and we have to stress to people to stay out, this is a work site."

The Daily has approached Sunshine Coast Council for comment.

Topics:  bli bli farming sunshine coast council

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