December 12, 2013
Mr Jeff Seeney
Dear Mr Seeney,
I am writing to you to ask you NOT TO APPROVE Logan City Council’s Amendment 1C to the Beaudesert Shire Planning Scheme 2007 which will be coming across your desk soon to be signed.
My reasons are as follows:
I am one of over 60 local residents of this rural residential part of Greenbank that have been objecting for many years to the number of small lot farms setting up in our neighbourhood.
We object because this is a residential area, and the poor quality soils in this area and the farming methods used to rectify this present a clear health and safety risk to residents.
If you have the time to peruse the blog we set up a year ago to keep residents informed (safegreenbanknow.wordpress.com) you’ll discover a long and complicated story of lies and misinformation, in which residents have been painted as the bad guys for daring to draw attention to the many impacts we have experienced.
These farms have increasingly been turning small lot open farms into ‘protected horticulture’ or ‘igloo’ farms with being required to seek Planning Approval. These igloo farms have then been retrospectively approved by Council, in one case almost seven years after their illegal construction, and despite our objections. Some of them have been set up as close as ten metres from neighbours’ homes and water tanks.
Logan Council seems to have decided long ago that this area is for ‘farming’, and no amount of agitation on residents’ part will shift them from this position. What they refuse to acknowledge is that this type of farming requires large amounts of agricultural chemicals and fertilizers, and these cannot be safely used so close to where people live. One only has to peruse the manufacturer’s guidelines for these products to learn that a 10 or 20 metre buffer is not enough to ensure the safety of people and animals on surrounding properties.
In the past three years we have experienced three significant wildlife poisoning incidents in which, directly after farmers have sprayed, neighbours have found up to ten dead or dying magpies on their properties. On one occasion this was found by Biosecurity to have been caused by a chemical called Fenthion Ethyl (which has since been removed by the APVMA from the list of permissible chemicals due to the dangers it poses); on another occasion the deaths were caused by Chlorpyrifos poisoning. In addition, a couple of years ago, after a major flood event, a large vat of a ‘soil fumigant’, Metham Sodium was found washed down Crewes Creek (which feeds into the Oxley River). This chemical is so dangerous that it required a suited-up Hazmat crew to remove it. Given that the public do not have access to these kinds of chemicals in high concentrations, it’s reasonable to assume these incidents were caused by farming activities.
Outside of the chemical use, when these farms apply fertilizer, residents are forced to live with the stench. My home is around 100 metres from the nearest farm and when they fertilize my home smells like a sewage treatment plant for up to two days. In one notorious case, a farm on Begley Road illegally erected igloos and FILLED IN THE CREEK so they could fit more on the block. This had devastating impacts on those of us living upstream (including myself) during the next big rain event, but it took some years for the Council to crack down on this particular farm, make them dig out the creek, and shut down their operations. As far as I know they were never prosecuted for the environmental damage they caused to a waterway, and I certainly received no compensation for my losses when one metres of water rushed under my home.
We have always maintained that Council needs to adopt the State Planning Guidelines in assessing whether to allow farms to operate in rural residential areas – especially as these guidelines were formulated in consultation with all stakeholders, including farming groups. SPP1/92 specifies quite clearly that a buffer zone of 40 metres (if vegetated) or 300 metres (if across open ground) is required to protect neighbouring properties from negative impacts. But Logan Council has REFUSED to implement SPP1/92, claiming that it only applies to ‘good quality farming land’. But we all know that the poorer the land quality the more fertilizer and chemicals are required in monoculture farming, so this argument to me is simply semantics.
Now Logan Council has just passed Amendment 1C, which calls for a buffer zone of only 20 metres, or a vegetated buffer of 10 metres! Given that their new Planning Scheme, which will supersede all others currently being used, is coming up for public consultation in February, I’m left wondering what the purpose of this Amendment to a soon-to-be-abandoned planning scheme is, if not to set in stone these woefully inadequate buffer areas to be then reinforced with the new scheme.
My neighbours and I are gutted by this news. We have been reporting negative impacts from many of these farms since 2007, and dozens of us have expended many, many hours in writing letters, making representations to State and Local Government, lobbying Councillors, even writing to the Ombudsman, all to no avail. It appears this Council is determined to make this area one big farm, no matter how poorly the farms behave towards those surrounding them, and seeks to remove ANY impediment to their establishment, including having to lodge development applications and notify the public. At the same time, they claim they cannot rein in the farms for impacting on residents, because this is a State Government responsibility. I would argue that if they have no power to enforce best practice and safe operations, then they have no business imposing these farms on us and forcing us to endure the impacts.
One of my neighbours, Allen Griffiths, has recently written to Ian Rickuss about the actions of the farmers adjoining his property, behaviour that potentially could seriously damage his ill wife’s health even further, and Mr Rickuss has promised to look into this matter. (I have attached his letter to this email.) I would like to ask you to go much further than this. As residents, we are tired of these problems being dealt with on an individual basis, which means we are constantly making complaints about the same behaviours and seeing no real action taken. We are tired of being shunted around between different bureaucrats who each give us different answers to our questions. We are also dismayed that prior to the last Council election, this part of Greenbank was surreptitiously moved to another division with no consultation, lumping us in with suburbs on the northern side of the Greenbank Military Camp, when we are miles away on the south side – a move which, to the more cynical-minded, could easily be interpreted as a ruse to isolate those who have objected to these farming practices from other parts of our neighbourhood similarly affected.
We would like to see clear and consistent rules instituted to make sure the events I have described above (which are just the tip of a very large iceberg – I haven’t even mentioned the busts for drug manufacturing, cockfighting, exploding sheds from poorly stored chemicals, welfare fraud, etc) do not continue to occur. My husband and I, like most of our neighbours, have sunk everything we have into our home and property, and are very concerned that this move we are seeing from small market gardens to an intensive use that is quite industrial in nature is ruining our amenity and damaging our property resale values. Most galling is that the farmers in my street do not even live here, yet it appears they have far more rights than residents.
Please, please, Mr Seeney, reject Amendment 1C and ask Logan City Council to start listening to our concerns. We are not against farming per se, but it is not acceptable to be using large amounts of agricultural chemicals near where people make their homes and raise their children.
Cc: Ian Rickuss, Michael Latter
Attachments: Letter from Allen Griffiths to Ian Rickuss; newspaper report from Jimboomba Times
WE DID RECEIVE A RESPONSE FROM IAN RICKUSS (STATE MEMBER FOR LOCKYER) TO THE ABOVE LETTER:
Thank you for providing me with a copy of your correspondence to the Deputy Premier in relation to market gardens and Logan City Council’s Planning Scheme.
Liz, I have also asked the Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection to investigate this matter and I am awaiting the Minister’s response.
Ian Rickuss MP
Member for Lockyer
Ph: (07) 5462 2772
1800 817 791
Fax: (07) 5462 2388
ON RECEIVING THIS, I DRAFTED A LETTER TO THE ENVIRONMENT MINISTER:
18 December, 2013
Hon. Andrew Powell
Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection
Level 13, 400 George Street
Dear Mr Powell,
I recently wrote to Mr Jeff Seeney (and cc’d to Mr Ian Rickuss) regarding the situation in my area of Greenbank and the problems residents here have been experiencing with Logan Council’s refusal to properly regulate farming activities in residential areas. I understand you have been asked to look into this matter so I have attached that letter to this email for your information.
Mr Rickuss informed me that he has forwarded to you the letter my neighbour, Allen Griffiths, wrote him about the health and amenity issues he currently faces due to the activities of the farmers adjoining his particular property. I’m here to tell you that Mr Griffiths’ problems are just the tip of a very large iceberg. If you visit my website, www.safegreenbanknow.wordpress.com , you can read all the background.
Essentially, this part of Greenbank is a rural residential area consisting of lifestyle acreage blocks, and has been zoned as such since the 1970s. Problems have arisen because some buyers of these blocks have decided to turn them into small-lot farms. Under previous Planning Schemes, farms have been exempt from having to seek development approval for their activities (unlike residents, who must comply with a raft of rules to build houses, dispose of grey water, etc). I am one of a large number of residents who have lobbied Logan Council over the past seven years, asking them to please stop allowing farms to operate here without proper oversight and regulation, to no avail.
Over the past ten years, residents have been reporting negative impacts from farming, (these are outlined in my letter to Mr Seeney), but we have been unable to convince LCC to reconsider the ease with which their current rules allow such impacts to continue.
I live on a 9 acre bush block and to build my home had to meet stringent standards for building work, greywater, etc, to avoid impacting on the local creek and wildlife. This seems fair and reasonable, given the beautiful environment around here. But for some reason, these same rules do not apply to the farmers, and LCC seems determined to keep it that way. They claim regulating and investigating negative impacts is a State Government responsibility. But if this is the case, I feel they have no business allowing such developments if they cannot ensure they are being safely operated.
LCC’s recent tampering with the old Beaudesert Planning Scheme seems designed to aid and abet these farmers in continuing to operate in a fashion that impacts negatively on neighbours. There are NO requirements to use and store chemicals safely, no requirements for adequate washing and sewage arrangements, and LCC continues to ignore SPP1/92’s requirement that farms should have buffer zones between them and ‘sensitive receptors’ (ie. people, animals, living things). Instead, they have sought to reduce required buffers to only 10 metres(vegetated) or 20 metres (unvegetated) and remove all public notification requirements for all future farming development.
Please help us. We are not anti-farmer, but this kind of activity where people live and raise their children is not appropriate. These farms have shown, through past actions, that they are bad neighbours with no regard for how they impact on those living around their farms, and we desperately need someone to tell Logan Council to protect our health, amenity and property values by requiring proper, effective buffer areas between homes and farms.