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This website aims to develop case studies of the development of farming practices and attendant transformations of local ecologies of defined blocks of land. Through these biographies of particular plots of land we are developing localised analyses of the wider historical trends in the political economy/ecology of the Northern Rivers.

Go to: Coming to the Northern Rivers | Market changes | Education: SoilCare and TAFE | Soil Health | Community | Land-use and the future of farming |

Land-use and the future of farming

When we sell our properties especially right along the coast area, if you have an ocean view the value of your land is probably greater than farming values so I don’t know where that’s going to end because this land needs to be conserved for farming and that’s I think that’s an issue for the region.

Someone said to me once about talking about farms up at the Tweed and ah…the person said “well they could farm but on the other hand they could get four Victorians to an acre.” And that is …that’s um…a lot of pressure on land. I mean right now we have the farm protection legislation which…this is part of …I think that part is not considered just because of its slope and different things, I mean they chose certain areas while that’s good, or that’s better than nothing it’s very hard to have isolated little pockets that you’re saying “ok we’re saving this for farming” but because… if the whole town is built up around it, it makes it very difficult for it to be farmed. So that’s …yeah, that I think is an issue with land use going into the future it’s just the value of the land and farming. And even if a person comes along who can afford to buy a property like this and not farm on it or they’re not allowed to subdivide they’re still probably not going to farm. They might put a few horses but they won’t do the avocados, they wouldn’t do the avocados because it’s not really economic. Because they’re a doctor or a professional.

And they’re going to make much more money, but they want land, they want an ocean view but they don’t want the trees. We just had a farm sold over here just a few weeks ago, um this farm right up here. It’s all macadamias; the person who bought it came and said, “um…I would give you so much if you remove all the trees first.”

If we wanted to sell that block over there we would sell it much faster if we took the trees off. They don’t want to farm and taking trees out is very expensive. They want to live there, they want that land, they want an ocean view but they don’t want to farm. But then you do have a weed problem if you don’t manage yeah…we’ll see what happens there but as it turns out the owner refused to remove the trees and the person still bought it, bought the farm. So obviously they probably plan on removing them.

It only takes a new law to take away the farmland protection.

And with new subdivision the land that …for the new Ballina… not quite sure how that got through. The local councils seem to think they can’t stop it and they think the land prices will manage that or they say the land prices are getting so high so they have to, they have to put in new subdivisions but um… I don’t know. I don’t trust them all. I think there are other reasons they’re putting in new subdivisions. It’s going to be very interesting and there’s going to be more and more issues with land use conflict as this all happens so we’ll see where that goes too.

There’s a lot of pressure and it makes farming difficult when you have farms mixed in with lifestyle properties because people do like to come to the country for a quiet lifestyle [and] farms aren’t quiet. Farms are noisy and they’re seven days a week. And they start really early in the morning, so there are issues with um…land… what’s the word, the term? Um…I can’t think of it now.

We are just looking at a project with CSIRO I told you about that on land use, the peri-urban issues and land use conflict and Biodiversity, there’ll be a lot of things involved so that will be interesting because we are, this area is a very good example of what’s happening in other parts of the country in these type of coastal strips where people want to live. This area’s especially so, just because of the rain fall and the soil, the quality of the soil and the rainfall make it especially important to conserve farmland.

When we do things we usually do it, if we’re going to put out fertiliser we usually do it when our closest neighbours are going to be away that weekend or something like that we try to work with them but I mean someone who’s way down the lane we don’t usually try to accommodate them because we can’t accommodate everyone. But …ah…you know people know you try and they respond even though they may be unhappy… and they want you to know they’re unhappy it’s not a …it’s not a nasty situation or people whereas I know recently people who yeah had council come visit them because they were spreading chicken litter and because the neighbour was complaining about the smell. So those things happen and I mean we don’t have that type of thing happening here but I wouldn’t say everyone’s happy about living with farms around them.

It’s challenging, but I think it is a matter of groups like Landcare um… making neighbourhoods get along. It’ll be interesting if we get the funding to do the CSIRO project that will be part of it, looking at ways that you do that through a variety of things but certainly communication will be part of it. And the Landcare model works in that way or it has for us.

We were very lucky when we um…put our first Landcare group together, Tuckombil Landcare, we were given funding to get training we were all getting training from EnviTE, you know the… I can’t think of it. Yeah it’s Environmental Training and something …anyway, so we had, we would have regular meetings and we have a rainforest remnant down there that is actually um…ah it’s the extension of Shaw’s Lane that has never been opened so it’s government land.

But it has some very old trees in it so we had funding for training so we used that remnant to …for all of us to be trained so we, the first thing we did we had EnviTE teach us what the plants were that we needed to protect and what were weeds. In the beginning you don’t know, so we learned weed by weed and plant by plant and we would have to put little markers on the rainforest seedling plants and we would have to … we learned how to manage the weeds either by pulling it ah…cutting it off and putting herbicide on it, or how that particular weed could be managed. So we all did that as a Landcare group together then we would go back to our own farms and work on our own areas. We didn’t have a huge amount of weeds in our area but we did have areas that had been cleared so what we did um…was to reconnect remnants with plantings and um… that was good we were able to get help again for advice because when you start out you don’t know anything. We had no idea what sort of rainforest plant could go at the edge of the creek and survive and what could go somewhere else so we had to learn all those things and there was a lot of help for that, a lot of advice and help doing all that.

We certainly have more wallabies. Everyone around here has more wallabies now we certainly have more wallabies, we also have more rats. Just in our change of farming practises, because we have so many healthy ground covers now, the wallabies love them because they want to eat good things too, and they’re going to choose something nutritious over something not nutritious so we have a lot more bird life now than we used to have because we have a lot more insects and things like that.

We have a huge amount of Ibis. I encourage them, we put out, I mean the trees do, the avocado trees just naturally shed fruit and the Ibis like the avocados …so I actually take rejects out and put them in areas where they’re not working because the amount of fertiliser they leave behind is enormous.

Because we have a bitumen driveway, just when they work part of the orchard and then walk across the bitumen driveway back into the orchard, if it hasn’t rained for you know a week or two the amount of fertiliser that I have actually photographed that and I’ve tried to get a clean sample from them but I haven’t been able to yet. But I will because I’d like to actually see what’s there because I have the photograph that I can graph I can actually probably analyse what I’m …what I’m getting, in fertiliser value from that. You need to be able to measure what’s there, what’s going on. That’s something I still haven’t done but we do encourage them we put out avocados just for them.



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