Blueberry pickers at work.
Blueberry pickers at work. Trevor Veale/The Coffs Coast Adv

Arkan raises the blueberry balancing act

THE "balancing act" of preserving the Coffs Coast's environment while encouraging agricultural growth has a local councillor on a mission to boost funding for Coffs Harbour Regional Landcare.

Cr John Arkan has submitted a motion to tonight's council meeting calling for increased funding to Landcare to provide additional services for the region's blueberry and hot house sectors.

Cr Arkan said more funding from the council's Environmental Levy Fund would allow Landcare to assist growers on issues such as agronomy, soil health and water ways.

"Coffs Harbour has always had a balancing act between the beauty of the region and a clash between furthering farming pursuits," Cr Arkan said.

"We live in the most beautiful region in NSW and need to maintain that, but we also have a blueberry industry worth millions of dollars that is important for our economy and employment."

Regional Development Australia states the Coffs Coast's blueberry industry is worth $80 million - employing 284 people as well as interim workers across more than 85 businesses.

But there have been ongoing community concerns over the quantity of agricultural pesticides and other chemicals used in blueberry production and the potential effect of these on neighbouring communities.

Cr Arkan said boosting funding would help growers address environmental issues, as well as assessing new intitiatives such as the potential for capturing run-off water for other purposes.

He said the need was greater following State Government cuts to agricultural agencies.

"The closure of agencies such as CMA and other agencies who traditionally provided guidance and information to farmers no longer provide such service, so Landcare has to pick up the slack.

"It's integral we support Landcare who may be able to employ an extension servicer or the like to assist farmers."

A council report on the motion noted funds for the 2015/16 Environmental Levy have already been assigned, including $160,000 for Coffs Harbour Regional Landcare, but added the 2016/17 round was due to open shortly.