Coffs Coast Business, Local

Blueberries and coastal ‘growing pains’ to be looked at by new Agriculture Commissioner

It’s known as the home of the Big Banana, but Coffs Harbour is developing a reputation for blueberries — and the conflict between farming and urban development.

By Melissa Martin

Key points:

Newly appointed New South Wales Agriculture Commissioner Daryl Quinlivan said he had been instructed by Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall to review the State Government’s Right to Farm policy.

Where berry production is the big growth industry, obviously there’s a lot of growing pains and contention with other land uses,” Mr Quinlivan said.

Key points

  • New Agriculture Commissioner Daryl Quinlivan will review the State Government’s Right to Farm policy
  • The Coffs Harbour blueberry industry has been highlighted due to conflicts over land use
  • The Agriculture Minister wants to move towards resolving the debate over how to manage urban sprawl and primary industries

“Along the coastal strip here,

“The minister has asked me to look at that as one of the early priorities.”

Mr Quinlivan has held a number of senior roles related to agriculture and food trade.

From 2015 up until his new appointment he was secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

Mr Marshall said the goal of Mr Quinlivan’s Right to Farm review would be to resolve the tension over land use in the Coffs Harbour area.

“The North Coast is that ground zero for some of those modern day conflicts we have between traditional productive agriculture and urban sprawl, or other external infrastructure threats that we need to guard against,” Mr Marshall said.

“His wealth of experience will be critical in driving growth in our state’s $16 billion primary industries sector.”

Three men wearing smart country-style attire walk through a lush green field.
Daryl Quinlivan (centre) and NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall (left) spoke with Coffs Harbour MP Gurmesh Singh about the local blueberry industry.(Photo: ABC Coffs Coast: Melissa Martin)

‘A global problem’

The debate on how to manage urban sprawl and ongoing primary industries is not new, nor is it an argument that is specific to the Coffs Harbour region.

“This is a global problem; all developed countries in one form or another have this problem and they’re dealing with it at present,” Mr Quinlivan said.

“Local councils have to have a view to strong local economies, strong local employment, and at present the horticulture sector here is one of the main forces for those, so we’ve just got to find a way of of making the most of the situation,” he said.

“While not everybody can be happy we’ve got to find the optimal situation for all parties.”

Mr Quinlivan expects equally challenging talks in the energy sector, particularly off the back of the current debate around Santos’ coal seam gas project in Narrabri and opposition to solar farm and wind turbine projects.

“We have to find (a solution), because ongoing conflict with all of these developments is really not a tenable growth path for us as a national economy.”

“We need to find ways for those local communities to benefit generally, not just the individual landowners, and I think that somewhere along somewhere along that pathway is the solution to most of these problems.”


First published by The ABC – Coffs Coast Wednesday 5 August 2020. See;


  1. Bronwyn Scott

    Please dont alow the coffs coast beautiful coastal environment to be destroyed by overdevelopment and destruction of habitat for additional farming .I live in woolgoolga and I can tell you the destruction of habitat for blueberry farming is alarming. I’m not against the farmers but I am over the ongoing habitat destruction as I see huge logging trucks pass my door on Pullen Rd . There is no balance at the moment and there needs to be before the reason tourist come her is destroyed. Overdevelopment is just as bad .

  2. We all had an opportunity to make submissions on this issue to the CHCC with their Rural Land Use review in 2019. Sadly, Council voted against the motion which would have given them at least some control over land use practices, proximity to neighbors, boundaries, waterways, erection of structures etc. From memory, one Councillor’s rationale for voting against the changes was that the ‘horse had already bolted’.
    The local Blueberry industry, while providing immediate economic benefits to the local community, arguably has some serious sustainability issues, specifically in regard to water requirements and the use of toxic chemicals. That is apart from the immediate impacts of Covid restrictions on export markets, forecast worldwide oversupply and growth of competitive organic blueberry production elsewhere. Then there is the land clearing of valuable habitat, loss of local biodiversity, environmental degradation of land and waterways, and negative impacts on neighbors. Let’s hope this bloke is fair dinkum and is not blinded by the usual ‘spin’ that we have had to put up with.

  3. As commented above the blueberry is a troubled industry, as with most gold rushes there is a crash.I hate to be a naysayer but two factors control the industry :expensive picking cost only sustained with cheap backpacker labour and market price .With Covid 19 and the backpacker tax under review again,labour is likely to be an issue. Gurmesh Singh will be lobbying very hard to maintain the status quo on an industry that is a dud and maybe unsustainable.The major killer is market price , nearly every country around the world is growing blueberries , we cannot compete with some of the low labour cost of Asia and South America .Did any growers here do a feasibility study on competing countries growing the same crop?
    I saw at a local supermarket 1kg of admittedly frozen blueberries from Chile for $9.00, how can we compete? The world market is saturated with blueberries , so forget exporting and the home market is not large enough. So next will be the National Party asking for subsidies for the fledgling blueberries industry from taxpayers .Bizarre and growers will walk away from farms and taxpayers will be asked for landcare funding to re-vegetate the farms with native trees to restore it to its previous condition.
    The weed mat and hail netting will be the new asbestos and special funding bucket will be created to deal with this toxic waste and taxpayers will fund the whole Blueberry Rehabilitation Scheme, its a job creation scheme for regional Australia and the public servants will have gainful employment and the environmental boxes will be ticked again

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