RECENT HISTORY OF THIS ISSUE:
August 9, 2012
As Brisbane’s urban sprawl inexorably spreads its tentacles through southeast Queensland towards the Gold Coast, those of us who live here are left wondering what controls are being put in place to protect our lifestyles. Here in Greenbank, most residents live on acreage properties where there is a high takeup of Land For Wildlife memberships amongst the conservation-minded, and where residents frequently report sightings of endangered animals such as koalas, red and grey goshawks, and powerful owls. Spotted Quolls have also been seen in this area.
Many residents have long been concerned about the proliferation of intensive agriculture operations in our residential neighbourhoods. Since 2004, they have been making complaints regarding: excessive clearing of vegetation (often clearfelling entire blocks) on properties to accommodate the construction of greenhouse infrastructure; the resultant habitat destruction, odour associated with the use of manure or other organic fertilizers; dust emissions during construction and from operational activities; storm water management; waste management, chemical fumes associated with the use & storage of pesticides and/or fungicides; destruction of visual amenity; and, in some cases, suspected illegal activities.Under the new Beaudesert Shire plan adopted at the end of April 2007, this type of Protected Horticulture became an inconsistent land use in Rural Residential areas, and subject to a development application. A taskforce was set up with interested stakeholders to develop recommendations to ensure existing intensive horticulture operations are conducted in line with an appropriate regulatory framework that protects local amenity and the health of the local environment and residents, while recognising the existing rights of farmers.
The Intensive Horticulture Regulatory Taskforce met in mid-2007. It seemed Beaudesert Shire Council had finally accepted that intensive agriculture operations are incompatible with residential living because of public health and environmental impacts, and sought to wind back approvals of any further developments, particularly in the north of the Shire. BCC also passed strict tree-clearing laws to prevent any further clearing of large tracts of land without a permit. The residents were delighted.
Then the Bligh Government enforced council amalgamations and this part of Beaudesert Shire and the northern part of the Gold Coast became part of Logan, and all of these measures became redundant. Residents have had to begin all over again, trying to convince the Logan City Council that these operations are a health risk to residents, despite the chemical manufacturer’s own guidelines making it clear that these products are hazardous to human health. Because Council now has three areas to try to integrate into one comprehensive planning scheme, and still has adopted no clear guidelines on this matter, we have consistently asked Council to do the sensible thing and adopt the State Government guidelines, which were formulated some years ago in consultation with both farmers and environmental groups.
For information on the shenanigans instigated by two Logan councillors to stop amendments to the old Beaudesert Planning Scheme (designed to prevent impacts of residents posed by chemical spray drift and other noise and odour issues) from applying to the existing farms in this part of Greenbank, see the post filed under the category ‘Local Media Coverage’ dated September 22, 2010. Clearly, everyone agreed farms should from then on be ‘impact assessable’, but these Councillors clearly didn’t think that the residents of this part of Greenbank who had been reporting adverse impacts for years deserved to be included in these rules. One wonders what superior qualities these particular non-resident farmers possess, that these councillors would seek to exempt them from rules designed to protect the health and safety of the people who live here – rules that the agitation by WE RESIDENTS caused to be adopted.
In rejecting a development application for another intensive agriculture setup in the area earlier this year, following over 58 submissions objecting to it, Logan City Council showed that it is trying to respond to residents’ concerns. But the farmers’ response to this rejection has been to take Council to the Planning and Environment Court and serve notice on all objectors. Council has decided to fight this case, as it rightly should, and it is pending.
Meanwhile, the farmers have continued to do whatever they want. On several occasions in the past year, the farms have sprayed their crops and within 24 hours we have witnessed extensive bird deaths. Residents have reported headaches, nausea, asthma, and sick and dying domestic animals, all of which point to chemical exposure. With the latest bird kill, Biosecurity Qld were informed and took the birds for testing. The results stated that an organophosphate insecticide, CHLORPYRIFOS, was the cause of the deaths. Given this latest bird kill occurred on a property ten metres from a farm that had been working (spraying?) between 10 pm and 1 am on the previous three nights, the cause seems clear.
But supporters of the farmers publicly attacked the residents. We have had a local councillor in the media accuse the residents of deliberately poisoning the birds, stating he believes the farmers when they say they have not used this chemical. The CEO of Growcom was quoted in the Jimboomba Times last week insisting that the farmers always follow best practice, and saying that the residents should ‘apologise to the farmers’. At no time has either Logan City Council or Growcom made any concerted effort to check what the farmers are spraying, and when and in what concentrations, or to reign in these chemical cowboys and force them to follow industry best practice. Despite residents many times witnessing the effects of chemical exposure on themselves, their families, animals, and the local wildlife over many years, we are not being believed. It seems farmers who live elsewhere, farmer’s lobbyists who live elsewhere, and councillors from the other side of the Shire have more rights than we do.
It is now eight years since residents of this area first voiced these concerns. One wonders how long it will take before the cumulative effects of long-term chemical exposure begins to impact on residents’ health, and what defence the farmers and the Council will adopt if faced with a class action as a result of their failure to protect residents from exposure to agricultural chemicals.
August 15, 2012
Jimboomba Times reported that test results on the latest birdkill had returned from the Qld Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, with the findings that ‘no evidence has been found to link the property (in question) to the June bird deaths … (and) … Environment and Heritage protection officers conducted sampling at a market garden on Harvest Road … (and) found no evidence of chlorpyrifos in soil, ponds or amongst chemical stores on the site … EHP officers tested for 39 organochlorine and organophosphate pesticides., including chlorpyrifos, which were all well below safe levels.’ (JT August 15, 2012).
The problem is, the testing was not done until six weeks after the incident, and in that interim time the farm in question tried to cover up evidence of their activities.. My letter to the Jimboomba Times about this matter, titled RESULTS ARE MEANINGLESS was published in the August 22, 2012 edition, and can be found under the post of that date under the ‘Local Media’ category.