Voice of Real Australia Episode Two Transcript

Tom: [00:00:00] Hello, I'm Tom Melville. Welcome to Voice of Real Australia. Each episode we bring you people, places and perspectives from beyond the big cities. Now, you might have heard of the Barossa Valley, the Hunter Valley or the Yarra Valley. These are regions praised for their boutique produce and immersive agricultural tourism. But have you ever been to the Majura Valley? It runs up Canberra's eastern fringe, a pocket of primary producers, only a short drive from Parliament House and an international airport. And the farmers are eager to share it. After all, it boasts a truffle farm, a winery and other artisan delights. But the ACT leasehold system means that many farmers in the Bush capital have shaky tenure on the land, which the government can take back with just a few months notice. That makes it tough to get a loan and invest in their properties, which would help draw in the crowds. Before Canberra was Canberra. It was a farm. But there's a fear that the city's agrarian chapter might be drawing to a close. To find out about its agricultural past, where it is today and where it could wind up. I went out to the city's farms and spoke with the people who live there. You can hear the frogs. It's obviously a healthy paddock, right? No, not at all. [00:01:07][67.1]

Paul Keir: [00:01:08] When you walk across to the house, you can just stay in there and you hear like 20 different species of frogs. Right. Are you good on the frogs? Can you talk? [00:01:16][8.5]

Tom: [00:01:17] Paul Keir is a typical Australian farming man. Dark, tan, firm handshake. Lively wit and an obvious love for the land. He showed me around the old heritage buildings on his property, Springfield, towards the middle of the valley. A couple of days away from the airport come into the shearing shed. We're in the old shearing shed, which hasn't been used for shearing in years, but now serves as an informal bar and meeting hall. He's showing me some photographs from the area's past. How long ago was this photo taken in? [00:01:44][27.8]

Paul Keir: [00:01:44] Nineteen hundred. And this building is from 1850 1874. And that become the mature post office. And that horizontal slab hut, settler's cottages, all is still there. And who are the people with the shed? [00:02:01][16.3]

Tom: [00:02:01] The walls are covered with dozens of photos of his past as a horse breeder and highlights from his farm's nearly two centuries of history. [00:02:07][5.9]

Paul Keir: [00:02:08] This is the original old Macintosh right there with a couple of people. And it looks like they're shooting. They've got some small shotguns and they're holding up quite a lot. And they've got a dog there. This must dated. I mean, you've got. [00:02:24][16.2]

Tom: [00:02:25] Paul tells me he raised his kids in this shed with a tough life in a draughty old two room eucalyptus slab building where winters can get down to minus 10. [00:02:33][8.0]

Paul Keir: [00:02:33] We've had some weddings in here and had the year 2000 celebrated in here with a big party in a band in here and lots of people from the valley. There's 13 families here. And, you know, we've had some big parties in here and we've celebrated and we commiserated and all sorts of stuff in here. And it it's a great Place. [00:02:53][20.1]

Tom: [00:02:54] But Paul's roots in the valley go even deeper. [00:02:56][1.7]

Paul Keir: [00:02:57] There's some history. My family in here and I've been on this property for 22 years. My mother's family lived across the road in the valley. They were here for three generations. And there's been a couple of generations of kids here all up. There's been five generations of my family live in this valley. [00:03:16][19.5]

Tom: [00:03:17] Paul's voice is laced with love for the place. Unsurprising given that he's a man of this soil. His farm took the drought hard and they haven't run any stock for a few years. But now the creeks are overflowing and he hopes to fatten some calves this season and cut some hay. Much like his ancestors would have done. Over the road from Paul Keir's place is the Maturer Valley Free Range Egg Farm. [00:03:41][23.9]

Fred McGrath-Weber: [00:03:46] My name is Fred McGrath Weber live and work on Majura Valley Free Range Eggs, which is situated at Matura House, one of the oldest working farms in the area,. [00:04:00][13.9]

Tom: [00:04:01] Fred shows me around the farm as he locks the chickens in for the evening. I can just make out their mobile chook sheds through the gloom. Cars float down the Maturer Parkway in the background. Fred lost land when it was built and that wind you can probably hear is funnelled through the valley and down the plane. It's icy, but a stiff walk warms us up. This is a mixed farm and the chook sheds move around the paddocks, fertilising the soil as they go. [00:04:22][21.5]

Fred McGrath-Weber: [00:04:23] Over the last 10 years of doing this mobile system We've seen our soil qualities increase. And that also means that we don't necessarily have to fertilise the soil or bring on external things like lime and stuff like that to improve the quality of soil. And after the chooks have been across the whole paddock, then we put fat lambs on or plant a crop. [00:04:50][27.2]

Tom: [00:04:51] They've got 3000 birds here. And Fred uses modern techniques to be as productive as possible on their limited land without sacrificing animal welfare. He has big plans. [00:04:59][8.8]

Fred McGrath-Weber: [00:05:00] My vision for our farm and for the valley is for it to become similar to a Clare Valley or a Barossa Valley. Kangaroo Valley. All these iconic valleys around Australia where they are agriculture and tourism hub. We believe that Mature Valley can have that same stage but be 10 minutes away from the capital of Australia. That type of country experience in the heart of the city. [00:05:29][29.0]

Frank Van De Loo: [00:05:36] Spray issues spray. If it weren't for me, just because there's a bug called Phylloxera that we don't have and we don't want it because it'll kill our lungs. Yet, Fana. So what are we looking at here? Okay, so we've got different blocks in the video. This is one that we call Rock Block because it was very rocky when it first developed. And these vines right here are in Spanish, right? [00:06:04][28.2]

Tom: [00:06:05] That's Frank Van der loo. He's the winemaker at the Maturer Valley Vineyard, a few k's north of Fred's farm. He's tall, energetic. His background is in biology. And he has a scientist's eye for the place. [00:06:15][10.2]

Frank Van De Loo: [00:06:16] You know, there are probably a few thousand grape on varieties in the world. And if you grow a variety that comes from a completely different climate here, it'll probably make indifferent sort of wine. If you find one that actually suits our climate, you can go to the next level in quality in the character and personality in the wine. If you want to distinguish between one part of the vineyard and another part of the vineyard, because they have slightly different soil and aspect and things, you need a variety that's very sensitive to where it's grown. And so that's been our journey is basically to find those varieties temporally. I was the first then when that was going really well. Right. Well, let's look at other varieties that come from the same area. [00:06:51][34.9]

Tom: [00:06:52] ANd, you know, have you had wine growers come from that region and taste? [00:06:55][3.1]

Frank Van De Loo: [00:06:55] Not so much, probably. There's always a lot more Australian winemakers going to Europe. Then there are European winemakers going to Australia because, you know, they've got the history and the heritage and they just, you know, full of self belief. They know they've done it already. Whereas we know that our best wines are still in front of us. [00:07:11][15.7]

Tom: [00:07:12] He takes me on a tour of his vineyard. Then we sit down at the front of the cellar door to talk again. You can hear the Maturer Parkway, which was completed in 2016. Like Fred Frank lost Land when it was put in. [00:07:22][10.7]

Frank Van De Loo: [00:07:23] We always knew it was on the cards. So it wasn't it wasn't a big surprise and it was something we'd always planned for. And we had a map on the property that showed the area that they would withdraw land and there they couldn't. And so we knew what land was secure and what wasn't. But we went from 49 hectares down to 38. We lost 11 hectares. It's a big chunk of land. And you get bugger all compensation. [00:07:45][22.0]

Tom: [00:07:45] In the ACT only get paid for improvements if the government resumes your land in town, that could mean your house and garden. But in the case of an agricultural property like Frank's or Fred's, that might only be a bit of fencing. Frank was lucky in the sense that the road missed his vines. He only lost a bit of land, which they weren't using anyway. But it was a close shave and a stark reminder of the challenges farming next to a growing city can pose. For now, though, the vines are safe and Frank has plans to expand. [00:08:11][26.0]

Frank Van De Loo: [00:08:12] We at the moment have a plan to put in a new block. So what we're doing is going really well. We've learnt a lot over the 30 years. We don't have visions of conquering the world. But I hope that it will be here a long time after I'm gone and we've been working at creating something that demonstrated its value. So it's worth continuing to reinvest in and go forward. [00:08:30][18.1]

Tom: [00:08:31] The Majura Valley Vineyard will be here a long time. Frank's tenure on the land is as secure as it can be in Canberra. But many of his neighbours don't have the same luxury. And despite Frank's efforts and the efforts of his neighbours, the story of agriculture and the ACTU since the city was founded more than a century ago has been one of decline. Reclaiming land for development has fuelled Canberra's growth, and a lot of that land was once agricultural. To get a sense of what this means. I leave the valley and travel north west to Gungahlin through open grazing country and into Canberra's suburban heartland. [00:09:01][30.8]

Paul Carmody: [00:09:02] Hi, I'm Paul Carmody on the rural losee here at Elm Grove in Gungahlin. [00:09:06][4.0]

Tom: [00:09:07] Canberra is known for its suburban sprawl, and Paul knows better than most that if you want to keep your land in this town. Sometimes you have to fight. I meet Paul at Elm Grove, the only remaining agricultural property in the area, and we sheltered from the wind in his early 20th century wool shed. [00:09:21][13.6]

Paul Carmody: [00:09:21] What we understand, the Gillespie family first settled on Elm Grove around 1862, and from that time on, they used property for wool production and the growing of hay. And that is still going on today, largely as it is. It's still going on. We hear today in the wool shed where we've shorn sheep since as long as I've been on the property, which has been 1985. It's where we shear our sheep every year. And that's continued up to now. And we'll continue into the future well, for as long as we have the land that we need to properly run the property. [00:09:57][35.1]

Tom: [00:09:57] So it must've been a bit of a shock when you were told that there was no heritage value to the property. [00:10:02][4.0]

Paul Carmody: [00:10:03] Pretty well, yes. That was back in 2007. I disagreed with that at the time. I then went down a path of engaging heritage consultants and. [00:10:13][9.2]

Tom: [00:10:13] Back in 2007, Paul was faced with every farmer's nightmare. The government wanted to take a chunk of his land to about 150 acres to put in a new residential suburb called Jacker. Paul wouldn't let his best land be subsumed into Canberra's suburban jungle. And a couple of years later, that portion of his property was heritage listed. He thought he was safe. [00:10:31][18.3]

Paul Carmody: [00:10:32] We're now looking at a proposal to develop a second stage of jacker immediately to the west of the Heritage Precinct. And what is being proposed is in complete disregard to the Elm Grove conservation management plan. [00:10:48][16.0]

Tom: [00:10:49] Paul argues that because of the heritage listing, the views can't be impinged upon by development. And looking at the photos he shows me of the proposed suburb. It's clear that the undulating hillside dotted with yellow box gums I can see just out his woolsheds window would be changed dramatically. But the broader lesson here is about the way land in the ACT is held. It's all leasehold. So neither Paul nor any other landowner, be it rural or otherwise, can actually own their land. Most home owners in Canberra have 99 year leases, which is considered quite secure. But much of Paul's land is on shorter leases with withdrawal clauses, meaning the government can resume the land at short notice. Paul says this has been bad for farming in the ACT. [00:11:29][39.7]

Paul Carmody: [00:11:30] Without a long term lease, effectively, whether you got a five year lease ten year lease, a 20 year lease, you've really only got a 30 day lease because in those types of leases, the government can resume all or part of the land at any time, effectively 30 days notice. As a result, the farmer is not going to do or can't, it'd be irresponsible to make any significant investment in the property. Knowing that it could be taken from them the next day. [00:11:54][24.4]

Tom: [00:11:55] And that means that I guess the land is neglected or badly managed, correct? [00:12:00][4.6]

[00:12:00] It is neglected. Certainly not managed. To the extent that most of the farmers want to manage their land, most farmers want to invest in a property. They need to invest. You've got to invest in the property to keep it up to scratch and to keep it going forward. Now it very much. Day by day type of operation just to survive. Because, as I said, you can't go and borrow money. You can't invest in the property because you can't raise the capital. This is your own saving. And again, coming back to that's reckless. [00:12:24][23.8]

Tom: [00:12:25] Back in the mature valley, I wanted to learn more about the leasing situation. At the top of the valley is the truffle farm. It was started by Sherry McArdle English in the early 2000s and remains the only black truffle farm in the ACT. She sold it a few years ago, but still has strong links to the Valley and represents the Valley's interests to the ACT government. [00:12:43][18.1]

Sherry McArdle English: [00:12:43] There's a little bit of a story about how I came about to be on a farm and it certainly wasn't my dream and it wasn't part of my game plan for my life. But in 1998, my husband was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. That was an enormous shock to both of us. He was 55 years old at the time and not only a workaholic of his own civil engineering business, but also a sportaholic. And he was diagnosed with Parkinson's just two weeks after running his latest city to surf in Sydney. Three days after the diagnosis, he woke up in the morning and said, I'm buying a farm. I've always wanted to farm and I'm having a farm. And I was horrified because at the time my background was working as a lobbyist and an advocate. [00:13:27][43.8]

Tom: [00:13:28] We spoke for about an hour back in Paul Kirs wool shed. This place, he tells me, is where the Valley meets for Landcare meetings. I get the sense that Sherry is a fierce competitor, someone you'd love to have in your corner. [00:13:38][10.0]

Sherry McArdle English: [00:13:39] There's 13 leaseholders in the valley. And out of that 13, there's only two that have leases at all. Currently, the other eleven have no lease. And they're living in a situation where their homes, their employment, their primary production is all based on land that they no longer own. They were they quite securely while the lease system was still operational on their piece of land. But since it hasn't been renewed, each of those leases are now there with a 90 day withdrawal clause over them, which is extremely stressful for those that are living in that environment. [00:14:28][48.8]

Tom: [00:14:28] Since the lease has started lapsing in the Valley in the mid 2000s, it's been very difficult for farmers to invest. What bank would loan someone money when there's no security on the land? [00:14:37][8.7]

Sherry McArdle English: [00:14:38] So they live with that then, and it's constantly holding them at ransom. And the reason why I say that is it immediately affects their financial situation, because if they're wanting to further develop their business, for example, or their primary production business, they might need to go to the bank for a loan. Well, of course, they can't have a loan because they're restricted because they have no security over their property. [00:15:01][23.1]

Tom: [00:15:02] Can you Speculate as to why it's been so difficult for the last fifteen odd years to get these leases renewed? [00:15:07][5.1]

Sherry McArdle English: [00:15:08] I think it's more factual than speculation. And what's occurring as it is all over the world, of course, is the urban spread. Urbanisation is growing and multiplying. And so land is becoming more and more valuable. And sadly, one of the thoughts through government is that the Madeira Valley become an industrial hub. [00:15:28][19.9]

Tom: [00:15:30] The thing that shocks and impresses me most about the valley is that Fred's chook farm and Paul Keir's restoration work have been undertaken largely without the backing of the bank. At the northern tip of the valley is Sherry's old farm, now called the Truffle Farm and owned by Jason Messman and his partner. His day job is training dogs for the government, but he bought the farm a few years ago and now spends his weekends leading truffle hunts with the public and his seven expertly trained Labradors. [00:15:55][25.1]

Jayson Messman: [00:15:56] There's two big bowls of them and they just smell wonderful. Wafts through the room. Yeah, it doesn't take long. You just come down from the house. But if if I brought these down five minutes earlier, this whole room would be in golf with you. [00:16:11][14.3]

Tom: [00:16:11] We meet in the restaurant on his property where customers come to enjoy a cooking class and a meal at the end of a truffle hunt. It looks like a revamped farm shed with a kitchen recessed into the back wall like a stage on the inside. The walls are white plaster with exposed hardwood beams, the timber on the outside and the rust coloured corrugated tin roof means it just melts into the landscape. And that thick smell of truffles fills the room. [00:16:33][22.0]

Jayson Messman: [00:16:33] They're all gone and the season is finished. And I'm lucky enough to have some. So you must be cheap. Yeah, it's good. It's good. Cheering about the fact that we survived this season was brutal in terms of the drought, fires, Covid. Just what we were able to achieve through the season is pretty remarkable, really. Yeah, because I was not very pretty. [00:16:57][23.9]

Tom: [00:16:59] Unlike many of his neighbours, Jason has a 99 year lease. That's basically the closest you can come to outright owning your land in the ACT and because of that he and Sherry before him have been able to invest in the property and grow the business. [00:17:11][12.6]

Jayson Messman: [00:17:12] We've increased the tourism aspect probably 400 percent. So not insignificant, no big amounts. So that's why we've become, I think something that came is are proud of. So when I first set out to do these, I guess, offerings, we started with just 10 people. Now we're at about 40 per event, which is exciting. [00:17:36][23.5]

Tom: [00:17:36] A little while later, he takes me on a truffle hunt with one of his labs. Dingo Boy, bingo, his dogs are expert. And within five minutes we found a couple of truffles. It's been another one for. The grove resembles a young wood filled with northern hemisphere trees like elms and oaks and hazelnut. One day, he says, the young trees that are about 15 years old today will resemble a gnarled and wild European forest. [00:18:02][25.1]

Jayson Messman: [00:18:02] This is what happens at the end of the year, so they're going into spore. Well, that's a big fella. But at the end of the season, so this one may be it's one that hasn't matured correctly. [00:18:14][11.6]

Tom: [00:18:16] That basically looks like a big fist sized lump of mud. [00:18:19][3.0]

Jayson Messman: [00:18:21] So right there would be about four hundred dollars worth of truffle, which is a nice little find at this time of year. But again, this one is completely useless. [00:18:28][7.7]

Tom: [00:18:29] Coming out here and seeing the care this places received makes me think of Fred and his grand plans for the future. I wonder how much more developed they'd be if they could invest if they weren't living 90 days at a time. Since the leases started lapsing, the farmers here have come together to lobby the government. They created the Majura Valley Landcare Group and have been working on a master plan to drive tourism and investment in the ACT and to celebrate the city's Bush heritage. Sherry is leading that charge. [00:18:55][26.1]

Sherry McArdle English: [00:18:56] The Majura Valley is literally on the doorstep of what is now the international airport. It's also within 10 kilometres of the parliamentary triangle, and it's seven kilometres from the heart of Canberra City. So it's a unique pocket of primary producers. And from being primary producers, the potential is there for the Majura valley to also become a very, very interesting and innovative tourism hub. [00:19:28][32.4]

Tom: [00:19:29] A few years ago, the lessees came together and hosted the Maturer Valley Bush Festival. It was meant to showcase the valley's past, present and potential. Eight thousand people came through Paul Keir's gate that day. [00:19:39][10.1]

Paul Keir: [00:19:40] We had kids races and, you know, we had lots of displays and lots of old crafts. You could watch the horse races of horse versus motorbike. Who's the best stockman? Oh, well, we sort of cheated a little bit. We had to go round a barrier at the end of the race, but of course, the horse can jump over the barrier. So could we set it up that he could never beat us? It was really enjoyable day and it gave an opportunity for a local barons to show good all in what's right in the middle of their beautiful city. [00:20:14][33.8]

Tom: [00:20:14] It was meant to happen again, but it didn't. [00:20:16][1.8]

Paul Keir: [00:20:17] It could have happened again. One of the things that I said to then, we were still negotiating with the government to be offered new leases or to get some stability. And I said that I'd be happy to do this every year. [00:20:32][14.9]

Tom: [00:20:33] Cherie explained. [00:20:33][0.3]

Sherry McArdle English: [00:20:34] the looming problem for the leases is that we could well have 20000, the next year. to run it again game on a much larger scale would have been primarily funded by the lessees and they would have been digging deep into their pockets to be able to support the running of a day such as this. And the farmers just couldn't afford once again to do that on land that they don't have a lease on, that they might have been moved off within that 12 month period before the next festival. [00:21:10][35.4]

Tom: [00:21:10] Up the northern end of the valley Businesses are flourishing because leaseholders can think long term. Further south, the farmers are itching to get going. It makes you wonder what the valley would look like if they did have the security they've asked for for all these years. And I met with Anne McGrath of Majura Valley free range eggs. She's Fred's mum. She has no lease at all on the farm she calls home. Yeah, I understand. My grandmother uses the same. She doesn't drink out of a mug. She has the same. I make her a cup of tea and she promptly pours it from the mug. I select into her own special sentimental one. [00:21:41][30.6]

Anne McGrath: [00:21:42] I'm Anne McGrath and this is Majura House, just on the outskirts of Canberra. And Nick Weber, my partner, who's sadly died a couple months ago. Together, we came here in May 2000. [00:21:59][17.0]

Tom: [00:21:59] We're sitting in a kitchen. There's a log burner in the middle of the room warming my cheeks even a few metres away above the sink. There's a window looking out over the farm and bright green pastures, slick with morning dew glistens in the winter sunshine. I'm struck again by the fact that I'm just 10 minutes away from the centre of Canberra. [00:22:16][16.2]

Anne McGrath: [00:22:17] So what can we do if a small parcel of land? A Hundred and twenty acres. So we did a lot of research into free range eggs. And in 2010, we started off with our first big mobile sheds that has 300 chickens. [00:22:31][14.8]

Tom: [00:22:32] And those sheds came out of their savings rather than from the bank, because Ann's lease lapsed in 2005. [00:22:37][5.0]

[00:22:39] When we came to the farm. Everyone's like, oh, yes, the lease is only, you know, five years to go. But we just assumed we'd reapply for the lease and we'd just get a new lease and things would carry on for 15 years. We've been waiting for a lease. I mean, there's so many things we want to do. And it's not that we don't try and get on with the government. We have a four lane highway, Katherine, the middle of our farm. Our farm is now kind half. We lost 14 hectares of land. We got nothing for it. And this farm, this land will be a farm, a superannuation for the whole of Australia, for the whole of Canberra, because it needs to be preserved and we need to have a lease in order to do that. [00:23:19][40.6]

Tom: [00:23:20] How does it feel, I guess, sort of knowing that you could have as little as 90 days left on your super? [00:23:26][6.3]

Anne McGrath: [00:23:29] It's very frightening. And every day, every day, I just work my butt off. And there's no denying that I don't like it. I love it. And. When I go to bed at night or wake up in the morning and I see that beautiful mountain ranges that's been there for eternity, millions of years. Why can't this farm, be left here for eternity. [00:23:58][28.9]

Tom: [00:24:02] Introduce yourself and give us your title as well, please. [00:24:04][2.8]

Mick Gentleman: [00:24:05] Hi. So, Mick, gentleman, Minister for Planning and Environment and Land Management. [00:24:09][4.0]

Tom: [00:24:10] Mick gentlemen is a member of Canberra's Legislative Assembly and he's as Canberran as they come. He spent all his life here and worked in various public service departments over the years before joining politics in the early 2000s. His office was closed to the public on my visit to Canberra, like everyone else. He's been working from home these last couple of months, but he made a special trip in and I asked him to reflect on what the Bush capital means to him. We spoke before the ACT government went into caretaker mode for the 2020 territory election. [00:24:35][25.8]

Mick Gentleman: [00:24:36] I was born in the ACT, so I've watched it grow from a city of only 20000 people to now 420000 people. And all that time I think I've been involved intrinsically in the bush around the ACT and now more so in my role as a minister for Land Management, particularly the environment heritage as well. [00:24:56][20.4]

Tom: [00:24:57] So I understand that there are 13 leaseholders in the Media Valley and only two of them actually have active ongoing leases. They're the 99 year ones. The rest of them, as I understand, they've all they've all lapsed. And I'm sure I can understand there's a lot of anxiety there where there's these I think the 90 day get out clauses. I wonder, can the government ensure farmers have security, which would also allow them to further develop their properties? [00:25:22][24.9]

Mick Gentleman: [00:25:23] Well, it's some some work that we need to do in the planning sense, because, as I mentioned, some of this land is commonwealth land and not our responsibility. However, we're trying to take over that responsibility so that we can manage it with the farmers. We have no intention of moving the farmers on. But there is that technical aspect of a 99 year lease. And whether you consider that your temporary lease is any different than a 99 year lease. The same provisions would apply in that if something had occurred, we could remove the lease from whether there are 99 year lease hold or temporary leasehold. [00:25:58][35.4]

Tom: [00:26:00] But it means a lot. It's a lot different to to the bank, though, whether you've got 99 years or however else long. [00:26:05][5.5]

[00:26:06] Oh, you certainly is. And this is the position that those leaseholders have put to us. And that's why we're working with them in the east and broadacre plan to see what we can do for them in that sense of reality and the way they have to work with the banks and the finance companies. [00:26:20][14.4]

Tom: [00:26:21] Despite the lack of movement on the 99 year leases, Minister Gentleman told me the government has no intention of moving the farmers on. [00:26:27][6.1]

Mick Gentleman: [00:26:27] We do want to see permanency for them. So we're not opposed to 99 year leases for those leaseholders. We just need to work through the process to get it organised, if you like. [00:26:37][9.8]

Tom: [00:26:38] The farmers I've talked to clearly love this place and the hard work they and their families have put in over the years is obvious. But I wonder how long they can sustain that energy. It's been a tough journey to this point. And Paul Keir's story puts it in perspective. [00:26:50][11.5]

Paul Keir: [00:26:50] You know, I have to be honest. I got to the stage where I just threw my hands in the air. And the guy that came to the festival six months later offered to buy the farm off me. I told him it wasn't for sale, that, you know, I had plans. But when nothing happened for two years, I decided that I would just move on, move myself away from a valley that my family's been for five generations. And I've got a contract with the man. And you had to get ministerial approval to sell the land. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to sell the land to him because the minister wouldn't approve it. Now, I've got a parcel of land that I can't really invest in because I don't ever leasing. I can't sell it and move on. So I'm in no man's land to be quite honest. You know what I'm Canberran. I want what's good for Canberra. But if there is no immediate planned for this valley for the next 20 or 25 years, we'll give us a crack at it. Let me invest some more money into this property. Invite the Canberra and international visitors and tourists here to share it for me. That would be the most fantastic thing I think. [00:28:08][78.0]

Tom: [00:28:10] Farming is in the Bush capitals DNA and the people I met in the majura Valley are a key part of that. These aren't sad people by any stretch. These are people who get to spend every day of their lives doing what they love. Many of them might have lost land when the highway was put in. But now the drive into Canberra and beyond takes you right through their backyard. For them, that's an opportunity to show the world the land they call home and to build on the work that's been going on for generations. But without the sort of security you can take to the bank, they're in a kind of limbo waiting for an answer while trying to get on with their lives. And the question still remains, despite the passion and the dedication of farmers here, will nearly two centuries of farming history in the Valley end with them? That's it for this episode of Voice of Real Australia. Thank you so much for listening. Subscribe on Apple podcast Spotify or wherever you listen and I'll be back in a couple of weeks where new podcasts. So please share it with friends or give us a five star rating on Apple podcasts. And if you'd like to share your story, email us at Voice at Obst Community Media dot com Doray. Are you? That's voice at Aust. A USD community media dot com dot are you. Our Facebook page is Facebook dot com slash. Voice of Real Australia. Voice of Real Australia is recorded in the studios of the Newcastle Herald. It's produced by Lara Corrigan and me, your host, John Melville. Our editors are Chad Watson and Gale Tomlinson. Special thanks. This week to John Paul Maloney and Megan Doherty from The Canberra Times and Kate Matthews. This is an ACM podcast. [00:28:10][0.0]

This story Voice of Real Australia Episode Two Transcript first appeared on Newcastle Herald.