Mushroom farming in the disused Glenbrook railway tunnel is officially over after the Department of Primary Industries has given the operators an eviction notice.
The news comes seven months after the MP for Blue Mountains Trish Doyle intervened in the operation revealing it as “dilapidated and dangerous farm” with “unsafe and illegal workplace practices” for employees, who were staying in “flithy, squalid doss houses”.
Ms Doyle welcomed the news the farm would be shut down and the site cleaned up.
Evidence of unsafe workplace practices, environmental contamination, migrant workers being paid with “free” on-site accommodation in “doss houses”, as well as organic waste and abandoned cars being dumped in nearby bush, were revealed by Ms Doyle to the Blue Mountains Gazette last year.
The Department of Primary Industries (Crown Lands) gave the operator, Mushroom BioTech Pty Ltd (the Organic Mushroom Company), an eviction notice effective from March 25. It has been extended to allow the operator to continue removing the demountables, abandoned cars and empty shipping containers at the farm.
Mushroom farming has taken place in the tunnel on and off since 1913 and the site may have heritage issues after the tunnel was also used for mustard gas storage during World War 11.
Biotech spokesman John Oates told the Gazette on Tuesday that it’s “just too hard doing business down there”.
“It’s a decision I made to close the farm … I’ve inherited a lot of issues from previous owners so it’s time to move on.”
Ms Doyle said “an opportunity exists now to open up the railway tunnel to the public in a way which celebrates its fascinating history over the past 130 years and encourages tourism to the lower Blue Mountains”.
“I am relieved to see that the Crown Lands department eventually saw what was clear to me from the outset – the farm at Glenbrook was a threat to public safety, operating in breach of basic workplace health and safety standards, and harming the waterways of the local environment.”
A spokesman for the Department of Primary Industries - Lands said they had issued several clean-up notices on the company in the past year and recently advised that the lease would be terminated.
“The department has erected safety fencing and signage to manage public access through the area to ensure the public can safely walk or cycle without encountering safety hazards.”
He said mushroom production on the site ceased in early February and the lease holder “is in the process of cleaning up the site prior vacating”.
“Once the site is vacated DPI Lands will assume responsibility for it and further decisions about long-term land use or occupancy will be matters for a future date.”
DPI Lands has worked closely on the matter with council and SafeWork NSW, he said. Access by car will end in the near future to prevent further illegal dumping.
Ms Doyle thanked constituents, David and Donna Watson, who first raised the matter.
“Without the Watsons’ campaign to see the site cleaned up, the appalling conditions at the mushroom tunnel might have continued unnoticed.”