The Northern Star

Alstonville farmers protest centre's closure

NO one was allowed inside, but that didn’t stop farmers braving the weather to protest at the gates of Tropical Horticulture Centre in Alstonville yesterday.

Jolyon Burnett, Chief Executive of the Australian Macadamia Society, was there to voice his concerns at the closure of the centre under last week’s NSW Government mini-Budget.

“We invest $400,000 per year in the centre,” he said.

"No one has been consulted, we’ve been given no say,” Mr Burnett said.

“The fact we’re not allowed access to the site is disappointing.

“The decision to close is wrong on so many levels.”

Mr Burnett is concerned about the long-term effects of the centre’s closure.

“Research and development is our life blood,” he said.

“The research being done here is so important, we’re such a dynamic region,” he said.

Natalie Bell of Mountain Blue Orchard, is involved in new methods of blueberry production and said she was unsure where her industry would end up.

“The centre gives us a direct link to education and other industries,” she said. “Blueberries are such a growing industry, we can’t sustain it if we don’t have the support of the Government.”

Getting behind the local farmers is Nationals Ballina MP Don Page who visited the centre with Federal Nationals Leader Warren Truss and Nationals Senator Fiona Nash.

Mr Page is collecting petitions to present to the NSW Parliament next week.

“We’re not going to give up,” he said.

“My guess is they want to sell the land off for real estate.”

Many cannot believe that the centre is to be shut when research is needed for issues surrounding climate change and the environment.

The petition can be downloaded at www.donpage.com.au and posted to PO Box 1018, Ballina, 2478.


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