The new board of Regional Development Australia Southern Inland (RDASI), meeting for the first time last week, included a regional visit to Upper Lachlan Shire.
On Tuesday morning, the visited Gullen Range Wind and Solar Farm, where asset manager Leo Pearce showed them around the operations building and wind farm, allowing board members to get up close to a 120-metre tall wind turbine.
The $320 million wind farm has 73 turbines, 13 staff full-time and a number of contractors, and has introduced about 47 kilometres of road as well as a number of regeneration initiatives, weed control and feral animal control. They are also the first ever co-located wind and solar farm, with the ability to power about 70,000 homes. The solar farm of 42,000 solar panels completed construction last year.
“Cattle and sheep love wind farms,” Mr Pearce said, explaining that stock are able to find shade in the heat of summer and seek protection and warmth in the depths of winter. The successful relationship between the renewable energy and agriculture sectors was on display throughout the visit, with Mr Pearce also outlining a plan to allow sheep to graze in between the solar panels in the near future.
In the evening, RDASI hosted a dinner with Upper Lachlan councillors, local businesses and organisations at the Criterion Hotel. RDASI chair Hugh Cooke and chief executive Mareeca Flannery opened the evening while Upper Lachlan mayor John Stafford welcomed the board to the Shire.
Jo Marshall, from the Australian Agriculture Centre (AAC) then outlined the AAC proposal to the room. The AAC is a facility that will educate, showcase and promote the agricultural industry to students, tourists and businesses. A feasibility study is being conducted.
Chair of Tablelands Farming Systems (TFS), John Klem was the final speaker for the night and outlined the various exciting activities being undertaken by TFS. TFS provides farming information, training and workshops to local farmers and has recently received $500,000 from the government for soil moisture probes. This partnership between South East Local Land Services, TFS and Monaro Farming Systems, aims to provide farmers with better soil moisture information to help measure and guide management decisions.
The following day, the Board visited Lindner Socks in Crookwell, a four-generation, family owned and operated sock factory. Andrew Lindner emphasised the importance of the Lindner story as a unique and differentiating factor in their business.
Mr Lindner discussed a number of key topics with the board including the importance of supporting local business, creating a story with your brand, the throwaway society we live in and the importance for all stakeholders along the agricultural supply chain to communicate to one another.
The board then visited the council chambers for a meeting with Cr Richard Opie. Cr Opie provided the board with a comprehensive overview of the Shire, new developments, challenges and opportunities for the future.
The final visit of the trip was to Garry Kadwell’s farm. Mr Kadwell, a fourth-generation farmer, showed the board around his impressive potato and prime lamb operation. Mr Kadwell is also a sustainability advocate, having dedicated 32 per cent of his property to conservation areas and regeneration, including 32 hectares of wetlands he built. He is one of six finalists selected for the Australian Government Innovation in Agriculture Land Management Award being held in Brisbane in October.
Mr Cooke said: “The talent and expertise we have in our region is overwhelming. The projects we have had presented to us and the on-site tours and inspections we have done over the last two days have been really inspiring. All of us are now more enlightened and we will work hard to assist these businesses in any way we can.”