Agrifood project queried

DOES IT ADD UP? Cr Paul O’Brien has called for a cost-benefit analysis. PHOTO: Luke Plummer

QUESTION marks have been placed over the future of the Alpine Valleys Agrifood initiative.

Councillors Paul O’Brien and Julian Fidge raised the questions at last week’s Rural City of Wangaratta council meeting, with council agreeing to undertake a “cost-benefit analysis” of the project.

The initiative has been the brain child of council’s manager – economic development, Graham Nickless, who is currently on sick leave recovering from a bout of bowel cancer.

Its aim was to turn the Ovens and King valleys into a food bowl, by encouraging the growing of vegetables on under-utilised land in the region, partially due to the decline of the tobacco industry.

A prospectus was launched in 2010 and the main publicised success to come from it has been a growth in the number of berry farms in the region, while several high level meetings have also been held with key fruit and vegetable buyers.

Cr O’Brien’s motion asking for the analysis came unexpectedly, as council considered a manufacturing sector support strategy.

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