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Sharon Parrish - 23 July 2019

Sharon Parrish addressed the Council regarding Bumbo Bridge at the Public Access Session on 23 July 2019.

Mayor, Councillors, Council staff.

I am here today to discuss Bumbo Creek Bridge.

In a conversation I had on Friday with a professional gentleman on all things bridges he reminded me, don’t get stressed and emotional as you lose perspective and sight of the issues. It was exactly what I needed to hear and be reminded of.

So the issues with regard to Bumbo Creek Bridge for my husband Darren and I are;

1. The safety of our family and friends that cross the bridge every single day.

2. The safety of our employees, the milk tanker driver, the hay and pellet truck drivers and all those that pick up and make deliveries to our farm.

3. The safety of the Saputo Dairy Australia farm services staff, the people that visit the farm for servicing, repairs and maintenance of plant, equipment and machinery, the vets that attend to sick and injured animals and all the Industry representatives, experts and advisors that cross the bridge when they make visits.

4. The safety of the teachers, parents and children from the Preschool, Primary school and High school that visit the farm each year, the vet students that have industry placements with us each year, and the Year 10 student who has a work placement here for his TAFE course, and the farmers,  industry people, advisors, sponsors and presenters that attend the discussion days held at Riverview Farm.

5. The safety of the ABARES contractor who collects our data for statistics, the NSW Food Authority contractor that conducts our Quality Assurance Audits, the MLA staff that have to conduct our Biosecurity Audits, the LLS and CMA staff that inspect all the EEC communities around Bumbo Lake and other projects in the area, the Essential Energy staff and contractors that use the bridge to access poles, lines and meters and the Eurobodalla Shire Council staff that cross the bridge to carry out audits and inspections.

6. The safety of the people that drive through the property from the state forests, the people that drive over the bridge and park on the drive to access the sand flats in the river to collect worms for fishing, the hundreds of people that fish from the bridge every year, the cycling group that uses the bridge to access the roads out the back.

7. The safety of the 2 dairy families and their employees who use the bridge as access in times of flood, the Fire crews and Ambulance crews who have in the past and may need in the future to cross the bridge to provide essential emergency services.

8. The safety of all those people that we don’t even realise use the bridge. How many people that maybe we will never know.

9. The fact that a small business and dairy farm will be forced to close due to a lack of SAFE access. This issue is distressing to us and will definitely cause financial hardship and possibly bankruptcy but when put into perspective, is secondary to someone being injured or worse because they crossed or fished off the bridge.

I have been reading the “One Community. Eurobodalla Community Strategic Plan 2017”.

At the start of the One Community document, the Mayor in her address states

‘In practice, for Council, this will be at the heart of all that we do. We will align our future plans and decisions made by this Council to our community vision.’

I would like to address some of Council’s visions and look at what we are doing to play our part in making them happen.

Protect our rivers, creeks, waterways, mountains, bushland and ecological communities.

Our farm has 12.5 km of River, Creek or Lake and wetland boundaries. We have been on the property for 10 years and we have been fencing off all these areas and today we have only 837m of riverbank left to fence. This project is already in the planning stage with materials required for this project being quoted at the moment.

Our farm also contains some EEC (Ecologically Endangered Communities) areas around Bumbo Lake that we have fenced off. They are inspected by LLS and CMA each year to see how they are regenerating. To access these areas LLS and the CMA has to use the Bumbo Creek Bridge as access.

We also have tree planting programs for the farm. Some have already been completed and others that will be carried out in the future.

Strengthen community life through the delivery of a range of community events and activities

I organise and co-ordinate our local Bodalla Dairy Discussion Group. I organise discussion days, information days, field days, education programs and Q fever vaccination programs through Dairy Australia, NSW Dairy, suppliers, industry experts and advisors and the Moruya Medical Centre. These are open and well attended by farmers from Cobargo right up to Milton. Many of these events are held on our farm.

We provide farm visits for the local Preschool, Primary school and high school. We provide the calves for schools participating in the “Cows Create Careers Program” each year.

Support and advocate for the growth of tertiary education opportunities in our area.

Our business already provides Industry placements for Veterinary Science students from both Sydney University and James Cook University and have been since 2013.

Embrace and celebrate local history

Dairy farming in Bodalla is a big part of our local communities’ history. Riverview Farm has been a working dairy farm for over 150 years.  During the 150-year celebrations of Sir Thomas Mort and Bodalla Company we were one of the farms that participated in the bus tours. This included 2 bus loads of the public visiting our farm and learning about our farming operation.

Advocate for funding for economic infrastructure and Partner with business and industry to attract funding

We know and Council knows there is funding available for bridge repairs and maintenance if Council take responsibility for the Bridge. Council talks of attracting funding and yet they could clearly do that in this case as they did for Crapps Bridge and yet they continue to protest that it is a PRIVATE bridge despite all the evidence to the contrary. Regardless of how they classify the bridge currently they could take the bridge on as an asset as they did with Crapps Bridge not so long ago.

Provide, maintain and renew local road network and Advocate for improved transport links.

As we see from the funding application for the disaster funding applied for and received by Council after the December 2014 floods, Council is willing to put Bumbo Creek Bridge down as a local bridge, get funding but then refuses to acknowledge the bridge as falling under their responsibility. This bridge is essential for our businesses transport links and allows our transport and all essential services to access our business and home. Without the bridge we have no business as the Redex Road access is not suitable or practical.

Promote and support business and employment growth

We are a small business in the Eurobodalla that employ staff, contractors and other local businesses. We have been in the area for 10 years now and have established good business relationships in the Eurobodalla and with those businesses outside our shire that we deal with.

We have recently agreed to take on a Work placement for a year 10 student doing animal studies at TAFE.

If Riverview Farm closes what does this mean to Eurobodalla?

Another 1.8 million litres gone from the dairy industry in the shire.

The loss of over $550,000 of cash injected directly back into local businesses.

The loss of over $1 million dollars from local revenue generated from Agriculture in the area.

The loss of employment and work placement positions.

Our business and industry sector is smart, innovative, and resilient and is supported and prepared for future growth and challenges.

Our business is resilient. We have gotten through the millennium drought in Deniliquin moved to the coast and continued to grow. We have remained a viable business while experiencing turmoil in the dairy industry when many other dairy families have been forced to leave. We have survived drought, low milk price and high feed input costs and the many challenges that we have experienced. We are innovative, participating in the Ginfo Herd program where data and Genomics are measured and collected. We continue to learn and seek information to keep us getting more efficient, sustainable and keep up with community expectations. We do this through participating in our discussion group and Dairy Australia programs. We are implementing changes to our programs to improve outcomes for our animal welfare, improve our sustainability and adapt for climate changes and challenges.

As for the supported part, we definitely do not feel supported by our Local Government.

Provide open clear lines of communication with the community

We have been trying to engage with our local Mayor and yet have not had a face to face meeting with her despite our efforts to organise one. It has proved very hard to engage our local member or have open lines of communication when we can only do it through writing. Along this journey we have found that Council has failed to conduct business in an open and transparent manner. We have provided them with all the documents we have found to support our case but have received no evidence in return. Nothing has been clear or transparent.

We have spoken to many people from all areas of the community and been contacted by people who have seen or heard about the Bridge issue, many who we had never met before. The feedback has been 100 percent supportive of us. People in our community want to keep the dairy industry alive and thriving in our area and yes they do want to be able to continue fishing from a bridge that they consider public access.

In closing I would like to say that while the Strategic Plan is a very detailed document with many fantastic ideas and ideals, at the end of the day it is just a glossy document if all those ideas aren’t actually put into practice at the most basic levels. Here is an example where Council could look to the future, work with local business, be proactive and promote employment opportunities instead of sticking with the current attitude and forcing a viable dairy out of business. Work with us to get funding to resolve this, please be strong leaders and don’t bully us into bankruptcy.

The One Community Strategic Vision is that we want a friendly, responsible, thriving and proud community. Please action those visions in your decision with regard to Bumbo Creek Bridge and acknowledge it as the publicly used bridge that it is.