Farmers fuming at bans

BATTLING Tweed farmers fear they will lose their potential "superannuation" following a new council rule which will block the rezoning of any more land for housing development on the Tweed.

Many farmers, especially on the outskirts of Murwillumbah, have hoped one day to sell off some of their less productive land to developers, leaving them with tidy retirement nest eggs.

But the latest council rule, announced last week, seems set to destroy those dreams and comes on top of previous council restrictions preventing farmers from subdividing off small acreage lots for so-called 'rural residential' house lots.

Strangely, the new rule kept secret until last week, also follows meetings which the council called months ago with a number of farmers across the Tweed to discuss potential future development of their land.

Chairman of the Combined Tweed Rural Industries Association Col Brooks said yesterday farmers had been hoping for more flexibility in planning laws, not less. He said the new rule would put an end to the 'superannuation' hopes of some.

"Quite a few farmers were invited to a meeting a few months ago to discuss the fact that some time down the track the council was looking at earmarking their land for expansion, especially around Dunbible (south west of Murwillumbah)," Mr Brooks said. "This has probably taken the wind out of the sails of some people. They would have been looking to realise some superannuation for themselves."

Mr Brooks said it now also seemed the council had no intention of relaxing other subdivision rules which had stopped farmers looking at retirement from selling off a portion of their land.

"The thing that annoys us so much is that farms can be split up and it is being done in other areas," he said.

"This is not doing anything to protect agriculture. It is destroying it because it will drive people off their land. They can't battle on forever."

For years Tweed farmers have argued without success that they should be able to cut small acreages off their least productive land to meet a demand for rural residential living and to allow more intensive niche farming on smaller lots.

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