Jimboomba Times, June 20 & 27, July 4 & 11, 2012

JT June 20, 2012

Click on the above link to read how the JT reported the latest bird dieoff depicted in our videos that appear on the top of our home page.

Here’s my response, which the JT declined to publish.

Regarding the recent findings on bird deaths in Greenbank:

For years now Greenbank residents have been asking Logan City council to formulate uniform standards regarding the proximity of intensive agriculture to our homes.  We’re sick of hearing that anomalies between the various planning schemes make this problem unsolveable.   The State Government Guidelines on this matter are clear and sensible, and were formulated in consultation with farmers’ groups.  All we are asking is for Council to provide some clear guidelines for all concerned, and to enforce these.

Instead of doing this, Council’s inaction has caused the situation to escalate.  Partly in response to residents’ concerns, Council recently refused an application for another intensive farming ‘igloo’ operation on Harvest Road,  and now will fight the applicant’s appeal of this decision in the Land and Environment Court.  Yet, this same applicant built identical structures on the other side of the road without building approval some years ago, just ten metres from the nearest home, and now seems set to get these igloos retrospectively approved.  Where is the consistency in this?   And what recourse do the neighbours have to a noisy and possibly dangerous industrial activity going on at all hours of the day and night right next door?

Let me make this very clear: the Safe Living Action Group is not some fringe organisation with an anti-farmer agenda.  SLAG is simply an email list of concerned residents.  None of us are ‘anti-farmer’ and those suggesting otherwise are simply mischievous.  But we have all seen the cycle of farms spraying, then people complaining of headaches and asthma, and, occasionally, mass bird deaths such as the recent occurrence.  To suggest agricultural chemicals might be to blame is not farmer-bashing; it’s simply common sense and a vigilant and responsible Council would investigate, not prevaricate.

All we are asking is for Council to properly and transparently regulate the planning of farms and, if we must suffer the existing farms, to insist on buffer zones and regular monitoring to properly control the use of agricultural chemicals in our rural residential neighbourhoods.

Liz Hall-Downs, 20/7/2012

JT 27 June, 2012

JT reports test results on dead birds won’t be available for 6 weeks.

Letter from one Douglas Higgins claiming that as a farmer for 35 years, ‘never did we have bird deaths’.

Well, Mr Higgins, we have had many instances of bird deaths here, and always immediately after the intensive agriculture farms have sprayed their crops.  We live here, and we’ve witnessed it. Instead of attacking those who have drawn attention to this problem, why aren’t you suspicious of the chemical-handling practices of these so-called ‘farmers’?  You can conjecture all you like on ‘possible causes’, but, really, the causes are quite clear to all of us.

Here we have Cr Pidgeon and Growcom weighing into the discussion, both being as provocative as possible. He’s got to be kidding, AS IF the locals who are concerned about bird deaths would have killed the birds themselves! Get Real!

Residents react angrily to Division 9 Councillor Phil Pidgeon’s claims that someone (‘person or persons unknown’) is deliberately poisoning birds in Greenbank. Given that this stoush is actually happening in Division 4, one can only question Cr Pidgeon’s motives in weighing in to this matter in such a provocative fashion.

A story about local Greenbank apiarists losing large numbers of bees due to suspected chemical contamination. Intensive agriculture next to our homes. Dead birds, dead bees, dead dogs. But Growcom and Cr Pidgeon continue to blame the residents

Another response from me, again the JT didn’t publish it.

July 4, 2012

Both Cr Pidgeon and the ‘spokesperson from Growcom’ (4/7) are very quick to assert that no inappropriate chemicals are being used on local intensive agriculture farms and that residents are making ‘unsubstantiated allegations’ about farmers who are ‘heavily regulated’.  Yet, at no time have we seen any evidence of such regulation, or been presented with any proof that the farmers are not polluting our residential environment.

Instead of painting those who are concerned about this issue as evil greenie radicals trying to destroy local industries, Councillors ought to exercise their duty of care to ratepayers and properly investigate residents’ concerns about unexplained illnesses, polluted tank water, and the deaths of wild and domestic animals, all of which could very likely be the results of agricultural chemical exposure.

We have every right to voice our concerns, and to continue to call on Council to enforce State Government guidelines regarding buffer zones and the use of chemicals close to people’s homes.   If Cr Pidgeon was really serious about resolving this matter he would not be stirring the pot by casting aspersions on the motives of those who honestly believe they are being adversely affected.

Despite Cr Pidgeon’s outrageous conspiracy theory that some unnamed local troublemaker is deliberately poisoning wild birds to make a point, it is far more likely (but certainly less provocative) to assume a simple cause and effect relationship.  The residents of this area have many times witnessed these bird deaths in the days immediately following spraying; so the suspicion that the spraying may be to blame is quite feasible – certainly more feasible than Cr Pidgeon’s explanation.  His outrageous and silly remarks make me wonder if he also believes that the world is about to end in December this year as in the Mayan Calendar, that the Illuminati are about to institute a One-World government, and that 9/11 was not a terrorist attack but a CIA plot.

Truly, to me this pigeon really is beginning to look more and more like a goose.

Liz Hall-Downs

Another unpublished letter to the JT, sent June 29, 2012

It’s good to see a local concerned farmer like Douglas Higgins express his opinion regarding the latest magpie die-off near the intensive agricultural enterprise on Harvest Rd. True enough, we need to wait for toxicological results before definitively assigning blame.

Still, it gives one pause for thought that every single one of these reported magpie deaths over the preceding six months have occurred on or adjacent to these “igloo” enterprises and no such deaths have been reported anywhere else. Mr Higgins appears to believe that “magpies do no damage to crops at all”.  His statement seems designed to give the impression that magpies are ‘farmer’s friends’ so therefore why would farmers poison them purposefully?

Sorry Mr Higgins, but magpies – like their cousins the currawongs – are omnivores that eat insects, small lizards and snakes, and a variety of plant matter. I’ve personally witnessed currawongs feeding their young cherry tomatoes pilfered from local farms. Magpies will and do eat certain crops. Whether the latest batch of dying magpies ingested poisonous bait, died from nibbling recently-sprayed crops, or were poisoned from eating dead insects laden with insecticides hardly matters.

Those of us concerned and disturbed by Logan Council’s stubborn refusal to adopt a policy of buffer zones between igloo-style intensive agriculture and nearby residences can only roll our eyes and beat the drums louder when another wildlife die-off episode happens.  These magpies are simply the latest canaries in the coalmine. And guess what?  The canaries are dying. Does it take a few human deaths for council to act?

I’m not bashing ‘farmers’ generally. I know that there are good local farmers in the area who exercise best practice. However, those that do not, and those who continue operations directly adjacent to people’s houses need to be pulled up now.

Instead of pontificating from afar, perhaps Mr. Higgins would like to visit some of the worst offenders in the area and give them the benefits of his experience.  That I’d like to see.

Kim Downs

JT, July 11, 2012

Catherine Phipps from Logan (click the above link) has rather a lot to say about our quiet corner of little old Greenbank, where she, like Cr Pidgeon, does not live.  And just to set the record straight, she is wrong – many of the Greenbank farmers do not live here, they spray our rural residential neighborhood with toxic agricultural chemicals, then go home to places like Inala and Darra.  And Ms Phipps, they are not ‘awesome Aussie farmers’, they are not ‘Aussies’ at all, and certainly do not employ any ‘Aussies’ in their operations.  It’s nice you think you possess ‘common sense’; but your ‘facts seem questionable to us!

Here we have twoshort  letters from Greenbank residents which are self-explanatory.  One deals directly with what it is like to live next door to one of these ‘farms’.

The longer letter isfrom Lisa Crooks of Riverview Herbs at Chambers Flat.

Wait a minute, haven’t I heard that name before?  Oh yes, check out our file ‘Beaudesert Shire Council versus RAIDE’, where you’ll discover that Ms Crooks was part of the BSC taskforce set up in 2007 to deal with this issue of residents feeling that their environment, lifestyles and health were being adversely affected by the proliferation of intensive agriculture farms in close proximity to  homes.  It is clear that at the time BCC had every intention of denying approval to any more farms because of the negative impacts of those that already existed, and, furthermore, were looking into shutting down even the open farms that were located too close to people’s homes as well.  Amalgamation gave Ms Crooks and her colleagues a 5 year reprieve while Logan City Council played catchup.

You’d never know all this from her letter.  She writes, ‘The grower has an application in with Council for a greenhouse’.  No, Ms Crooks, and if you were, as you claim, there at the farm, you clearly have a problem with your eyesight. The application was for a shed extension, and they also tried to sneak through on the application a number of ‘proposed greenhouses’. The trouble is, these greenhouses had already been erected some years previous, with NO DEVELOPMENT APPROVAL and barely fifteen metres from the neighbour’s home and water supply.   This neighbour in question has tried for years in a friendly way to get the farm in question to plant a buffer zone, which they agreed to.  But, several years of empty promises later, still no buffer zone.  Still no drinkable tank water. Still no action by Council or the farmers’ organisations whose job it is to enforce best practice.

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