vegetablesWA response to Binningup Albermarle Village Workers Accommodation Development Application
vegetablesWA is the peak industry body for vegetable growers in Western Australia and as such we have a number of major grower members in the Binningup/Myalup area. Approximately 15% of Western Australia’s vegetable production occurs in this area and therefore it is a significant and important vegetable production region for the state.
As the proposed Albermarle Workers Accommodation Village is adjacent to several vegetable growing properties and is likely to have numerous negative impacts on these regionally important agricultural businesses, we wish to register our objection to the proposal. The likely impacts of a proposed workers village include but are not limited to; irrigation water contamination, disruption to current agricultural operations due to potential complaints about noise, dust and smells, impacts on regional businesses due to increase competition for labour, and increased likelihood of antisocial behaviour in the area.
The proposed Albermarle Workers Accommodation Village with its capacity of 500 workers will produce a significant amount of wastewater. Although the proposal outlines the proponent’s plans to utilise a wastewater treatment system, the intention to irrigate an area with the effluent has the potential to contaminate the water used by the neighbouring vegetable farm for crop production. As the proposed site of the accommodation has a shallow water table and is subject to seasonal inundation and the neighbouring vegetable farm draws water from a soak close to the boundary, there is a risk of microbial and bacterial contamination under the current proposal. This contamination has the potential to cause a food safety issue and to render the produce grown unsaleable and may lead to reputational damage and the loss of customers and markets for the farm.
Due to the close proximity of the proposed workers accommodation village to an active commercial farming property there is a real potential for disruption to farming operations and complaints from the workers accommodation village due to noise, dust and smells. As the proposed workers accommodation is directly on the boundary of the neighbouring farm and the farming operations cause dust, noise and smells and may occur at anytime of the day or night, it is inevitable that these activities will impact residents at the village. Trucks arriving and leaving the property, and tractors ploughing, harvesting and chemical spraying will all likely be sources of complaints and put pressure on the farmer to change their practices which will have an impact on the farm business. The development proposal includes ‘a 1.8m high 50% porosity fence’ along the boundary however this seems unlikely to be effective in reducing the impact of agricultural operations on the residents of the village. High density accommodation and commercial farm operations are not compatible land uses to have in close proximity and productive agricultural land needs to be protected and preserved for food production.
Businesses in the Binningup and Myalup area are currently experiencing difficulty sourcing labour for skilled and lower skilled positions in agriculture, food service and hospitality roles and the development of an accommodation village will only increase the competition for workers. As the accommodation village is financed by the mining sector their ability to pay is much greater than other industries with tighter profit margins and so agriculture and hospitality businesses will not be able to compete with the wages paid by the accommodation village and will therefore suffer from this development.
The introduction of a high-density accommodation village next to farming and rural-residential properties has a high probability of increasing antisocial behaviour in the area. While the accommodation is intended for mining construction workers it seems likely that the presence of the accommodation will attract more people to the vicinity which is likely to have adverse outcomes for existing residents and business owners. With no 24 hour police station within 30 minutes of Binningup will this add additional costs to the Shire of Harvey due to the increased burden on Rangers patrolling the open access beaches and other public spaces?
The development of a worker’s accommodation village on land zoned as agricultural sets a dangerous precedent which has the potential to undermine significant agricultural businesses in the area. The location of the proposed accommodation village does not appear to be fit for the purpose not only due to the zoning but also the potential for flooding. (Binningup Road has been constructed at 1 m or more above the natural ground level, presumably due to engineering requirements to mitigate the loss of access for residents due to the potential for flooding of the area?). There must be more suitable sites closer to the Albermarle site that would not adversely impact surrounding farming operations and communities.
While there is a significant amount of detail that is provided in the application and supporting documents, there is a lack of clarity about specific elements of the proposed construction which makes it difficult to understand the full impact of the accommodation village. We urge the Shire of Harvey to reject the proposal and encourage the proponents to identify a more suitable and appropriately zoned site.
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