Planning Dept says NO, but Council Pushes On Regardless (or ‘Who Has Mates in Council to Cover Up Their Bodgy Dealings?)
Click on the link below to read the full report from Logan City Council’s Planning and Development department, which outlines in detail the reasons why the Material Change of Use Application (MCUI/1/2011 – INTENSIVE AGRICULTURE) for 51-63 Harvest Road, Greenbank was refused by Council.
This was a big win for the residents, who have been living with the negative impacts of these ‘farms’ too close to our homes for many years.
But have a look at what was being said by Councillors in the leadup to all this – from the Jimboomba Times, September 22, 2010:
Logan City Council (we suspect after pressure from the Bligh State government following Mr David Hogan’s presentation to them on September 10) backflipped on an amendment to the planning scheme championed by Crs Pidgeon and Dalley that would have ‘resulted in market gardens on lots greater than 8000 square metres in the old Beaudesert area being exempt from development applications’.
We should bloody well think so! Why should mostly non-resident farmers be exempt from development assessment? Residents aren’t exempt. In fact the hoops this writer had to jump through just to get a greywater system (containing no sewage as we have a dry composting toilet) led us to joke that the Council must hold very grave concerns about the contents of our bath and laundry water! We have a 9 acres forested block, but still had to comply with Council’s strict rules in this regard. This cost us thousands of dollars to send waste water underground, water that could quite safely have been used on our garden.
In contrast, these farms do not contain their runoff, and appear to have no proper toilet or washing facilities. Our wastewater is treated as if it’s nuclear waste, while farmers are free to defecate on our fencelines and allow their runoff to undermine our homes and driveways.
As a result of the ‘backflip’, lots greater than 8000 square metres were made ‘code assessable’, and smaller lots ‘impact assessable’. However, Mayor Parker is quoted here saying that, “It’s important for residents to understand that existing rural agriculture will not be impacted”. Oh, lucky us! So now, everywhere else in this area, impacts of farming activities on nearby residents have to be considered and residents’ objections heeded. But for those of us already being negatively impacted by existing farms, nothing has changed. No enforced buffer zones. No controls on chemical spraydrift. No relief for the dozens who have reported negative impacts on their health and that of their children, pets and livestock.
To add insult to injury, the CEO of Growcom weighs in in the adjoining article, expressing his outrage that farmers now have to submit a development application before ripping the place up and constructing ugly greenhouses that destroy neighbours’ amenity. He then blathers on about the importance of maintaining ‘good quality farming land close to ‘major centres of population’ and states that ‘these adverse impacts have not been able to be substantiated by Logan City Council’s compliance officers’.
Well, Mr Livingstone should tell that to the brand new crop of asthmatics in the Greenbank area! He neglects to mention that this area is far from ‘good quality farming land’. It is dry schlerophyll forest with poor sandy and clay soils, which is why ‘farming’ in this area requires heavy applications of pesticides and fertilisers, the very things residents are being impacted by.
(Mr Livingstone has continued his attacks on Greenbank residents in the local media right up until August 2012, accusing them of being ‘anti-farmer’. He has continued to ignore or minimise our legitimate health and safety concerns, while insisting these farmers follow ‘best practice’. A cursory reading of LCC’s Planning Department’s report from Jan 17, 2012, above, incontrovertibly proves otherwise.) Since someone from his office did a blanket posting of his response to our ‘Open Letter To Growcom’ all over our blog a few weeks ago, Mr Livingstone has now gone to ground. He doesn’t write, he doesn’t phone … we feel so ignored!
Growcom consistently expresses outrage whenever anyone suggests that agricultural activity in residential areas should be properly regulated, and that chemical use and storage should be subject to official oversight. Their CEO bangs on about how farms are ‘heavily regulated’, but from our investigations, the only regulation we have discovered is the two day certificate course in chemical handling they are required to do every five years. Why should we be expected to trust these chemical cowboys to do the right thing, when we’ve consistently experienced adverse events as a result of their actions?
Alan Griffiths of Backwater Road clearly states (above) why Greenbank residents are up in arms about broadscale tree clearing in our area. But all the Jimboomba Times could get out of Cr Cherie Dalley was weasel words. Despite a State Government moratorium on tree clearing, she made excuses for these farmers – claiming they were allowed to clear because they had they had lodged their application prior to the moratorium. To me, this seems completely at odds with the meaning of the word. Perhaps Cr Dalley needs to look up ‘moratorium’ in a dictionary.
Further, her comments about ‘vegetation management plan(s) being ‘in place for the entire property’ are simply laughable. Clearfelling of native forest is NOT ‘vegetation management’, it is wholesale destruction. Cr Dalley also trotted out the old furphy that ‘the use of chemical sprays is regulated and controlled by the State Environmental Protection Authority’. But as we have clearly demonstrated elsewhere on this blog, this ‘regulation’ is also weasel words – a two day course in chemical handling is all that is required. There is no oversight of these farmers’ activities to ensure they do not impact on residents’ health and safety.
At the time of writing (Sept. 2012), the impacts on Mr Griffith’s property are quite clear. Engineers reports state that earthworks amounting to $100,000+ will be needed to mitigate the runoff this farm has funnelled onto his land. A further $40,000 will be needed to fix their leaking dam. It has been estimated his property value has been impacted to the tune of $140,000.
The council spokeswoman’s remark in the above newspaper story that ‘As a condition of the permit we ensured the ecosystems of the lot were protected … This was an approval condition’ are simply laughable. How can an ecosystem be considered ‘protected’ when these people are allowed to clear the entire block and fill it up with plastic-covered greenhouses. Ever seen a koala living in a greenhouse? Neither have I.
September 14, 2012
And now for the latest on the property on Backwater Road that did the clearing in September 2009 (See report from the Jimboomba Times above). The farmers’ representative, Deb Manendis, knew that existing permits required that felled vegetation be mulched, not burned. So in March 2012, she filed a request for ‘controlled burning’ of this vegetation, claiming the required method of disposal was cost prohibitive, and that burning would provide ‘education and training’ for the local fire brigade.
Amazingly, Logan City Council approved this action and issued the permit, which was not to become active until the appeal period had elapsed. (Of course, noone in this area was aware of this permit being granted, or that there was an appeal period, or we would have lodged objections.) Given Ms Manendis’ habit of informing residents of Development Applications by putting ads in a newspaper noone receives here (The Beaudesert Times, instead of the Jimboomba Times, which is delivered to every home) , and Logan City Council’s continued acceptance of these less-than-ideal examples of ‘compliance’ with the Sustainable Planning Act, it’s not surprising that nobody knew of this permit being granted. All rather sneaky.( But then so are these ‘farmers’, whose names rarely appear of any of the paperwork. Do they have something to hide?)
The burnoff was undertaken on September 11, 2012. Several local residents attended to protest to the Fire Brigade about this burnoff and, in fact, one resident and one of the fireman almost came to blows. Below is the relevant paperwork:
Note that in the Permit the crossed off clause was the original in 2009 (not to burn vegetation), the bold text is the replacement clause from 2012 (ie must get permit from Greenbank Fire Brigade). It’s interesting to note that a “donation” seems to have been made to the fire brigade, of course this isn’t a bribe … I am sure they would have given a permit that they know would upset the whole community even if they weren’t paid a bribe … er, I mean given a ‘donation’.
A number of approval conditions were not met, ie, the burn was undertaken in the evening, outside working hours; wildlife spotters and relocators were not present; etc, etc. We have been informed that there were old tyres present in the material that was burned, which would create fumes hazardous to neighboring residents.
How could these ‘farmers’ be unable to afford to hire someone to properly dispose of this vegetative waste, but ARE able to afford ‘donations’ to the fire brigade and the fees of their representative? As far as we are concerned, in this case the residents of Greenbank have been shafted by both Logan City Council AND the Greenbank Rural Fire Brigade. Now that this burnoff has occurred, it seems only a matter of time before Mr Griffiths next door will be watching more greenhouses being erected next to his home, and suffering the ill effects of chemical spray drift in his water supply. Doesn’t ANYONE in Logan City Council care about residents’ health and safety? It certainly does not appear so.
October 9, 2012
We have been informed that this latest ‘burn off’ smoked and smouldered for THREE DAYS after the events described above. Eventually the fire brigade had to be called back to extinguish it. Pity the poor neighbours living with the smoke for those three days, and we can all be grateful a bushfire didn’t ensue from this reckless behaviour (that is, leaving a fire unnattended and smoking in a bushfire-prone residential neighborhood), aided and abetted by the local fire brigade in exchange for a ‘donation’.