The environmental journalism Sydney-(out)sider
On Wednesday March 22nd 2017, Reuben Hale outlined in feature form a complex issue unfolding in the Midwest to establish a large scale pig farm in close proximity to the town of Moora. Hale weighs the concerns of local people and farmers against the potential for job opportunity and economic gain in the small town that would be brought by Westpork’s 68,000 head piggery. The $21 million dollar plan would be established just 16km uphill from Moora, causing residents to fear that flooding could allow chemicals and toxic waste from burial pits and effluent ponds to contaminate the towns water. The fear of the unknown seems to be the biggest problem, a problem that leaves the health of many in question. Westpork CEO Neil Ferguson said he was confident his company could work with local farmers and the community to address the concerns they may have. Ferguson stated that Aurora Environmental has designed an effluent management system with a strong focus on protecting the environment and minimising odour for the operation.
By displaying the arguments of both sides, locals versus corporation, Hale has written a well worded feature story that allows the reader to make an informed judgement based on the personal, emotional account of a local and the corporate, business driven account of a CEO. One could say the story is slightly biased in favor of the locals, but rightly so, as water contamination from fecal waste is a serious matter. Hale situates us well in where this issue is taking place, as well as informing the reader about more than just what is going on right now by outlining the planning that went into the project as well as discussing the pushback created by the community of local farmers. The reader is given a strong argument for “why” this plan could go through, despite all the concern, as it would boost local employment and supply opportunities in housing and accommodation, retail, education, food, entertainment and recreation services, health, medical and personal services, trades and administration.
The stories biggest issue is the lack of sources, the reader only hears directly from one representative from each side of the argument. There are no official statements from any government agencies or environmental professionals. Details from officials are only delivered in a “he said, she said” form which could many the story less credible in the eyes of many readers including myself. Additionally, while health concerns are addressed, the story lacks specifics. Many readers may not understand what the water supply would be contaminated with, and what specific health conditions could directly result from it.