Farmer fears extinction in growth corridor

By Steph McNicol

BEVERIDGE farmer Greg Heffernan fears the development of Melbourne’s metropolitan outskirts will force agricultural farming out of existence.

Having lived on his Beveridge farm most of his life, Mr Heffernan said the decision would be left to his two daughters on what the future holds for the farm following his retirement.

A key factor in their decision will be the urban growth that is creeping into the southern edge of the Mitchell Shire.

“This all started 10 years ago when the growth boundary was moved. In 2002, it was non-existent in our area, and when it moved it encapsulated us,” Mr Heffernan said.

“Because it’s become a growth corridor, it’s driven out a lot of older farmers, long-time farmers. Because farmers are pushed out, service industries close.

“Farming industries have had to re-centre at Shepparton and Bendigo instead of Melbourne. We can’t get parts to keep certain things going, but they’re things you can manage.”

Mr Heffernan, situated on more than 500 acres, said the State Government increased land tax – in what he believed was a bid to encourage farmers to sell their land.

“This is where the government gets very strong, that land tax bill gets so great. Imagine you were accuring bills of $750,000 a year and they tell you if you sell, you’ll get $5 million,” he said.

“I’m not one to lie down and take it easy because I want to see what happens. I have lived on this farm most of my life, been shearing sheep for 20 years, been in agriculture – as have all my family.

“You know there are forces working against you forcing you to sell. The Mitchell Shire Council itself has quadrupled our rates which has put us under a lot of pressure.”

The Beveridge farmer said farms all around him have sold, and he was one of the last big farms to still reside in the region.

“Kilmore used to be a farming centre, which is Seymour now. If [stock agencies in Kilmore] leave, I’ll have to drive to Seymour, and it does put pressure on them, because at some stage I will sell,” Mr Heffernan said.

Mr Heffernan said he used to feel more in control of his land when Beveridge wasn’t as developed.

“I got to say it was my land or my area, but we don’t get to say that anymore. I was also chairman of the local progress committee and that sort of gets taken over,” he said.

“You can’t fix it; I suppose all good things come to an end. Financially we’ll be pushed out, we’ll have to leave.

“It’s the urbanisation of the world. Are we a dying breed? Yes, definitely the way it’s going.

“No farmers in the world are as efficient as Australian farmers.”

Mitchell Shire councillor Bill Chisholm said while urban development continued, farming would play an important role in the make-up of the shire and community.

“Large scale producers are an important part of the food chain and play their part in our community, as well we see the annual Seymour Alternative Farming Expo continue to grow in strength and reputation as people look to develop farming initiatives on a small to medium scale,” Cr Chisholm said.