What isn’t being acknowledged here is that we have seen ‘open farms’ turn into ‘protected/intensive horticulture’ (ie. in greenhouses or igloos) virtually overnight. In one case, in Harvest Rd, the farm put in a DA to build a shed and included in the plans a number of ‘proposed greenhouses’. We objected to Council and were ignored. We objected because these ‘proposed greenhouses’ had actually been in situ for some years. In other words, they were ILLEGALLY erected and then RETROSPECTIVELY approved by a complicit Council. Nobody else out here is allowed to build structures without a DA, but these farms have been allowed to do whatever they want. I can guarantee if I started building a house on my block without approval, Council would demand I pull it down immediately. But apparently the farms don’t have to follow the rules the rest of us are expected to follow.
Councillor Jennie Breene’s comments are laughable! She says, ‘Council was conducting consultation on the proposed changes to ‘help it understand community sentiment‘. Well, Ms Breene, if you are unaware of this community’s feelings about this issue you must have been hiding under a rock these past 8 years. Over 58 objection submissions outlining the distress, illnesses, loss of amenity, depleted property values, and other impacts from existing farms was enough for Logan Council’s Planning Dept to last year strongly recommend that the DA to change a Harvest Rd farm from ‘open’ to ‘intensive agriculture’ be refused.
Council actually agreed, (Hallelujah!) which was a win for us, but the farmers’ response was to take Council to the Planning and Environment Court. This case is now on hold until December, while the farmers try to influence Council to favour them in their new Planning Scheme. This would be a travesty for residents, who should not have to endure any more negative impacts from future developments. It’s bad enough what we have endured from the exisiting ones. Council will not comply with State Planning Guidelines even to the extent of requiring existing farms to plant vegetated buffers or erect fences, preferring to leave us to fend for ourselves as chemical sprays, fertilizer stench, and late-night tractor noise continue to negatively impact on our lifestyles.
Ms Breene also delivers this gem: “By releasing these proposed amendments for public consultation we hope we can strike a balance between preserving rural lifestyle and helping create new local employment for rural residents.” Hilarious! These farms right next to our homes are totally destructive to our existing ‘rural lifestyles’, as the submissions mentioned above made abundantly clear. As for employment, in 13 years I have never ONCE seen any job advertisements for farm workers. On the contrary, these farms are family-run businesses that employ their Vietnamese-speaking friends and family and return home to Darra and Inala in the evenings. There is NO evidence that ANY local jobs have been provided by these businesses, EVER. (Of course Council’s weasel words to us, in writing, insist that these farms are ‘not commercial’ but a ‘rural’ use – well, if that’s the case, why are they being held up by Cr Breene as future employers of locals? If they’re not ‘commercial’, then they’re not a ‘business’, are they? Or are they only a ‘business’ when it suits council to say so?
As for the comments from Growcom, this whole article is just a bunch of lies. David Putnam says there is ‘concern the move would be another form of regulation and an added cost on growers’. This is Utter Rubbish! Despite Growcom’s CEO, Alex Livingstone’s, loud insistence last year that farms are ‘heavily regulated’, in reality they are barely regulated AT ALL. Apart from a 2 day course in chemical handling every 5 years, farmers are not overseen in any way. As we saw last year when a toxic and dangerous chemical drum wound up in Crewes Creek after heavy rain, clearly this 2 day course, and then relying on trust that farms will conduct their business safely – is not enough to protect this community. (The drum contained the soil fumigant Metham Sodium – flammable, toxic, turns into teargas on contact with water – and required a HAZMAT team to remove it after both police and firies refused to handle it.)
This is what Growcom is complaining about – that for the first time farms might be forced to comply with existing State Government regulations and stop impacting on their neighbours. There is NO oversight of these farms to ensure they are correctly handling chemicals, and we have seen ample evidence of their misuse, including dying pets and wildlife following spraying, exploding sheds on hot days due to improper chemical storage, and the drum incident mentioned above.
As to the farms ‘creating employment, diversifying the food supply and contributing to local tourism and amenity’ – pull the other one, Mr Putnam! Noone could call this a ‘tourist’ area, especially as the high value habitat here is rapidly diminishing as farms buy up acreage and clearfell the lot. I’ve already dealt with the ’employment’ furphy, above. As for ‘amenity’, these farms are destorying the amenity of residents, and have been for years, but Council has refused to address this issue effectively, despite repeated requests from dozens of residents.
Putnam believes the contention over greenhouses is due to their impact on visual amenity, but that they create a more contained environment that open field farming. What he neglects to say is that the agricultural chemicals used in this type of farming, such as Chlorpyrifos, BIND TO SOIL. In rain events, this soil is washed over neighbouring properties and into the creek. Spray drift may be lessened, but this is irrelevant when farms are allowed to erect greenhouses 10 or 15 metres from peoples’ living rooms. There’s no avoiding it when it’s being used this close to homes. This ‘visual amenity’ issue is way down our list of concerns; if it was only ugly greenhouses we were dealing with, we wouldn’t bother with this campaign. But soil fumigants, agricultural chemicals, and fertilizer use within metres of where our children live and play is NOT acceptable under any circumstances. Bear in mind the State Government guidelines were put together by the govenment IN CONSULTATION with farmers’ groups, INCLUDING GROWCOM, and were formulated in recognition that this kind of land use is incompatible with residential living. Clearly GROWCOM can’t even abide by the rules it helped write.
Over the page are two more stories – and we thank the Jimboomba Times for giving us the space to comment on this ridiculous attempt to fiddle around the edges with an old, outdated Planning Scheme to apply to only one part of Logan. How about a city-wide Planning Scheme for everyone so we could have some consistency and certainty? Oh no, that would just be too easy, wouldn’t it, and we can’t have residents and ratepayers influencing how things are done in our neighborhood, can we? I mean, we only live here!
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Nice to see three Logan Councillors did not approve of these latest changes being put out for public consulation. Unfortunately, yet again, Division 7 Councillor Laurie Smith is missing in action. Personally, it’s offensive to me to have had to watch two councillors in succession fail to represent the views of residents while being handsomely paid. (Hajnal Ban’s tenure was a train wreck, a shameful waste of ratepayer’s money for a personal tilt at celebrity that we residents bore the brunt of.) Cr Smith, instead of helping us to stop the high value wildlife habitat in Greenbank from being clearfelled for farms, chose to spend $40,000 on having wildlife pictures painted on our telegraph poles. I mean, why do we need REAL LIVE wildlife when we can have pretty pictures? Particularly galling was the Tasmanian Devil painted on one in Begley Road. WTF?
Cr Smith’s latest project is a park playground that nobody wants or needs. We live on acreage here, Laurie, and what we’d REALLY like is to be able to enjoy it with our families without our amenity being erodied by non-resident farmers with toxic work practices. Every other week I open the local paper to see another smiling picture of Cr Smith and his council mates getting another photo op. One would think that the role of Division 7 Councillor was a PR position, not a representative role. (I note that ‘Cr Goose’ is nearly always in the frame too, he appears to have taken ‘our’ newbie Councillor under his wing and seems to have convinced him that his constituents – that’s us and the other 56 objection letter writers – don’t deserve as much representation in Council as non-resident farmers do.) Rest assured we will be actively campaigning against Cr Smith’s reelection next time around as he has done nothing to help us get action on this issue. Perhaps if it was HIS family being impacted like we are, his attitude might be different.
Cr Don Peterson is one bright light in this morass of moribundity, saying he ‘had concerns about … developments in … largely residential areas. “People tend to look at it, particularly urban councillors, and say it’s a rural residential area, with the emphasis on rural, rather than the emphasis on residential”.’
Well, said, Don! The houses were here first, and this area has been rural residential since the 1970s. Why should residents have to cop this noxious industry clearfelling residential blocks and setting up protected or open field horticulture next to our homes? There’s very little regulation, no oversight of chemical handling and storage practices, and farmers up until now have erected greenhouses with no DA and had them approved retrospectively with the help of bodgy town planners that Council will not rein in despite ample evidence (which we provided) of professional misconduct.
This is what Growcom wants – for farms to continue to be exempt from regulation by Councils, while residents have to comply with a litany of regulation simply to build our homes and dispose of greywater. If you’re a farmer in Greenbank, you can crap on your neighbour’s fenceline in lieu of non-existent toilet and washing facilities, IN A WATER CATCHMENT, and noone at Council bats an eyelid. You can clearfell forested blocks and set up a farming business and rely on council to say it’s not really a business but a hobby (or ‘rural’ use). You can taunt your neighbours as you erode their homes’ foundations by digging right up to fencelines and covering their properties with dust and spraydrift and noone seems to care. One resident who has experienced the latter has recently served a farm with a damages claim, having received advice that restoring his property to its previous condition will cost in excess of $250,000. We are hopeful this attack on the farmers’ hip pocket nerve might make them reconsider the way they have been treating their neighbours.