Food hub meeting could get a roasting from opponents
ONE of the likely tenants of the Bangalow food hub precinct has shared his outspoken support of the project ahead of what is set to be a fiery public meeting on Thursday night.
Salumi co-founder Massimo Scalas said the food hub would allow the region's fast growing gourmet food sector to reach its potential, saying it was an "amazing opportunity".
But critics of the development say they will come out in force at the meeting to present a united front against it.
Opponent Tony Hart of the Bangalow Progress Association said there were simply too many unanswered questions for the community to support the $37 million project.*
The key feature of the food hub is three 5000sqm buildings which can be doubled in size to 10,000sqm. There is also a 3000sqm building, and four smaller buildings between 800-1000sqm.
Mr Scalas said a development of that scale was crucial to his business expanding from its current home in Billinudgel.
Salumi's boutique smallgoods are in such demand the business is inundated with demands for bigger distribution, but is unable to increase production due to the limitations of its Billinudgel premises, which is 600sqm.
"I can't supply enough because I'm not big enough," he said.
"I employ 14 people, and I want to employ many more, and this is the only way I can do it. We started here seven years ago and I feel that I need to stay in the region."
Byron Shire Council has received 536 submissions over the project - 304 against it, and 232 in support.
In addition to the size and traffic concerns, questions have also been raised over whether the use of the land as a food production centre is permissible under its RU1 zoning.
"We don't know what's going to go on there," Tony Hart said. "They have commitments from current businesses but that will still leave one shed vacant and it's unclear what's going to go on in that site into the future."
He said there had been a "very strong community reaction" against the development
A joint petition organised by Bangalow resident Linda Sparrow has drawn more than 1800 signatures in opposition to the facility, which critics say will "industrialise" the town's western edge.
"Bangalow has such a strong community spirit," Mr Hart said. "We're in the middle of planning the future of Bangalow with the master plan. Everyone's involved in that we've got a very active community who thinks about the town and believes in the town. And you would hope the panel hears that and responds to the community."
It's understood while people have no objection to the businesses planning on using the facility, there is opposition to its location, and the fact the businesses will be tenants of a third-party developer.
But Mr Scalas said many of people's fears were unfounded.
He said the project would be solar-powered, be tastefully landscaped, and modern. "They are going to build this building in a way that it's going to look like a farm," he said.
"You won't be able to see the building from the road."
Mr Scalas also said the food manufacturing sector was "the future" of the Northern Rivers and a facility of this size would enable businesses like his to grow organically, and employ many more locals.
"The amount of export opportunity for our product is just unbelievable," he said.
"They are giving us space to be able to grow not to have to move after two years."
As the development is worth more than $10 million, the Joint Regional Planning Panel will make the determination rather than Byron Shire Council.
Byron Shire Council staff have yet to make their independent assessment report, which will be submitted to the JRPP for consideration.
The JRPP has organised Thursday's meeting in order to hear the issues first-hand.
They will make a determination on the project later this year.
*The development was originally costed at $22.5 million.