Off to sweet talk minister

CLARENCE sugar industry representatives will travel to Sydney next week to meet with the NSW Roads Minister over the Wells Crossing to Iluka Road Pacific Highway upgrade.

Clarence Canegrowers Association manager Pat Battersby said the delegation included himself, high-profile local canegrowers Neil Gregor and Vince Castle and NSW Sugar Milling Cooperative operations manager Bill Walker.

Mr Battersby said the group would meet with Roads Minister Michael Daley on Tuesday to discuss canegrowers' concerns about the loss of valuable sugarcane land caused by the proposed upgrade.

“We're going to lay it all on the table; we feel like we're not getting heard,” he said.

Mr Battersby said sugar industry representatives were disappointed they had only been given access to half of the Wells Crossing to Iluka Road Concept Design Report's cane industry assessment working paper and were seeking access to the other half.

Clarence Canegrowers president Vince Castle said Tuesday's meeting with the Minister would to some extent be 'the key' to finding a solution to canegrowers' concerns.

“The cane industry has said all along it is concerned about how much land would be lost in-directly,” Mr Castle said.

“The report confirms about 90 per cent of what the industry has been saying.”

Mr Castle said the Canegrowers Association had a meeting with RTA representatives in Maclean about two weeks ago but failed to convince the RTA of the merits of the report.

“The impact on local cane land hasn't been taken into consideration. That was about our sixth meeting with the RTA and nothing much has been achieved,” he said.

“The other thing is that about 12 farmers are going to lose their houses. Where are they going to live?

“The only way to settle this now is politically.”

Mr Castle praised the Australian Workers Union for expediting the meeting with the Minister. He said the last time cane growers sought a meeting with the Roads Minister they had to wait 12 months.

The consultant who compiled the cane industry assessment working paper found the potential loss of cane land was 'significant', with some growers losing up to 30 percent of their holdings of cane land.

The report also found that any reduction in the quantity of cane harvested each year would impact on profitability.

It also stated: “All efforts should be taken to protect the individual growers and the industry”.

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