Concerned neighbours are organising to fight a proposed indoor egg-laying farm in north Waikato.
Waikato District Council is considering a non-notifiable resource consent application from Mainland Poultry to build one of the country’s largest egg-laying and rearing facilities, near Orini.
Neighbours say the company has intentionally underestimated the farm’s impact, and the proposal has outraged an animal rights campaigner.
Land use change consent details reveal the multimillion-dollar facility would include 17 sheds for egg laying, chicken rearing and egg packing, and up to 20 fulltime workers will be hired.
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Each shed would house up to 50,000 birds with 600,000 laying hens and 200,000 rearing birds in the sheds at any one time. Laying hens would be housed in “enriched colony and aviary systems sheds”, the company’s application said.
Neighbour Cara Ferris, who owns a cottage bordering the planned farm, said the company were low-balling the projections to persuade council against hearing neighbours’ concerns.
“We don’t believe the numbers in there represent their normal practice. It could be up to double those numbers from what we see them doing in their other production units.”
According to her research, the air pollution, odour, and disruption from transport stood to be worse than the “less than minor” listed in the proposal.
She said the proposed chicken sheds were too close to the boundary, and breach the district plan.
“We need to have our voice in the process, that doesn’t happen unless the district council says this is more than minor. We are prepared to follow the examples of other community groups and advocates who have fought against similar proposals.”
Fellow neighbour Martin Van Tiel said he was concerned about the risk of salmonella, listeria and bird-flu.
“It’s a very quiet little valley. From everything from the traffic, to the visual impact, it’ll look like an industrial site.”
Animal rights group Direct Animal Action spokeswoman Deirdre Sims said the group started a petition calling for the council to reject the consent application after believing the chickens would be housed in colony cages.
“The documents I have got talk very specifically about colony and aviary, unless they have changed their tune about the recent Foodstuffs announcement.”
The operator of New World and Pak ‘n Save will abandon cage-produced eggs within a decade.
However, Mainland Poultry managing director Michael Guthrie said the animals would not be kept in colony cages. The sheds would use an aviary system that allowed the birds to roam around the floor and perch if needed, and some of the farm could be free-range.
“This is where animal welfare people stir up a lot of trouble. It was never a colony farm – it was never going to be – so they are totally mistaken.”
The consent’s management plan said the sheds would be built by “international poultry shed design specialists” and each shed will house “state-of-the-art” equipment sourced from Europe.
The proposal acknowledges the chicken sheds are at closest 15m to the property boundary, when the district plan requires intensive farming to be set back 300m.
The obstruction and odour should be less than minor, it said, as the closest house is 400m away and the closest boundary is conservation land.
“Traffic movements” too and from the proposed farm are expected to be 90 per day, according to the plan, and the current rural zoning allows for 200.
The company wants to develop the site, at this stage a dairy farm, into an egg-laying facility to meet growing demand for chicken eggs.
Construction of the farm would begin in a year assuming the consent is granted.