Farming for the future

First, a declaration of interest (of sorts). Dunoon macadamia-come-solar farmer Chris van den Bergh's property borders mine, so I was one of the residents who received a letter from Council notifying us of his development application to build what is possibly the biggest private solar farm in Australia.

Usually when somebody comes along with a proposal to put a million dollar investment in a quiet rural area there would be cries of protest. You see it all the time; residents form action groups and write submissions to object, usually on the grounds of noise, visual impact and the effect on the ambience and amenity of an area.

We saw it happen in Dunoon a few years ago when a Sydney-based developer proposed building 60 new houses in the village. The residents all rallied; there were public meetings in the hall and we were united in our opposition. Fortunately in that case community action, the GFC and an unproved sewage treatment system saw that particular development fall over, and we all lived happily ever after.

But when I read about Chris van den Bergh's proposal I thought, 'There is nothing to object to'. There may be a bit of noise when he takes out some macadamia trees and builds the system, but after that a bank of solar panels generating clean energy will be largely unseen and unheard. Surely it can only be a good thing?

Chris believes he will see a return on his investment in the long term and that getting regular sunshine is a better bet than the fickle fortunes of farming.

Good on him. I might even take the highly unusual step of writing a submission in support of a development. You can stop progress, but sometimes you don't want to.

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