TARWYN Park – the Bylong Valley property made famous because of maverick farmer Peter Andrews’ natural sequence farming methods, and under threat because of an open cut coal mine – has passed the first hurdle to achieve state heritage protection.
The State Heritage Council has recommended Tarwyn Park should be considered for State Heritage listing and Environment and Heritage Minister Mark Speakman has confirmed the property is under active consideration for listing.
If successful the property would be the second in NSW to be placed on the State Heritage Register because of its “agricultural research significance”.
Bylong Valley Protection Alliance nominated the property in October after Korean energy company Kepco took over the site in July as part of its proposal to establish an open cut coal mine in the valley, to provide an energy source for Korea’s domestic market.
The NSW Heritage Council has asked the Planning Assessment Commission to obtain an independent assessment of the agricultural significance of Tarwyn Park as part of its assessment process of the coal mine project.
The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage told the State Heritage Council that Tarwyn Park may be of state significance for its role in early settlement of the central west in the early 1800s, for its continuous connection to thoroughbred horse breeding and the horse racing industry, and for the technical achievements of Peter Andrews who developed natural sequence farming on the property.
Listing gives legal protections to heritage items under the NSW Heritage Act. Major changes to heritage items requires approval from the Heritage Council.
Lock the Gate Alliance spokesman Nic Clyde said the Heritage Council recommendation, backed by Mr Speakman, was welcome news, but the Bylong mine’s progress through the planning system needed to halt until the assessment was completed.
“We’re calling on the NSW Minister for Planning to now put a halt on the assessment of the Bylong Coal project until the full heritage significance of Tarwyn Park can be assessed,” Mr Clyde said.
Peter Andrews said he had always believed Tarwyn Park had unique heritage values, “but it’s equally clear that Kepco has no idea how to manage the landscape to preserve those values”.
Peter Stevens, a researcher with Newcastle University's Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment, supported heritage listing.
“What Peter Andrews has done at Tarwyn Park is a whole of landscape proposition. Disturb the landscape, disturb its systems and you end up with an unknown outcome,” Mr Stevens said.
Peter Andrews bought Tarwyn Park in 1975 when the property was run down and suffering from severe erosion. He began experimenting with unconventional methods to slow the movement of water on the property to improve soil fertility.
After decades of being dismissed, his work was eventually championed by high profile supporters and he was awarded an Order of Australia in 2011 for his work on sustainable farming.