2009: Greenbank resident presents our case to Logan City Council
When the owner of a property on Backwater Road noticed broad scale tree clearing occurring right next door to his property, he informed Council, and also the local newspaper. (See front page Jimboomba Times story filed under ‘Local Media’ category, dated August 12, 2009)
The local member, John Mickel, was also contacted, and local man David Hogan, representing the residents, put together a power point presentation to present to Logan City Council, setting out the residents’ concerns.
You’ll need to click on and download the following link to see the powerpoint presentation, which outlines the planning issues that have led to the escalation of this problem concerning intensive farming located too close to homes.
LCC has inherited 3 different planning schemes since amalgamation, and has been attempting to draft a new Planning Scheme that will provide consistency.
We have been lobbying for SPP 1/92 of the State Government Planning Policy to be adopted, which specifies that proper, functional buffer areas exist between farms and homes. Following the presentation, Logan City Council finally agreed that there should be no more automatic farm approvals, given the difficulties residents had already reported, and that Development Applications must be made for any more proposed farming activity.
Councillors Phil Pidgeon and Cherie Dalley, however, sought to insert an amendment to the planning scheme that would have essentially reinstituted the free-for-all we have all been complaining about in our area, previously the northern part of the old Beaudesert Shire.
This amendment would ONLY apply to our area, where intensive agriculture farms had already been established. The amendment sought to allow properties of 8000 square metres or more to do whatever they pleased in our residential neighborhood, with NO requirement for any kind of planning approval.
The residents were extremely unhappy. SPP 1/92 exists to protect the health and safety of people and the environment when farms operate in their vicinity, so to us it appeared that we’d been hung out to dry.
Apparently, the residents of this part of Greenbank weren’t considered worthy of protection from agricultural chemical exposure and other annoying, if less noxious, activities such as nighttime industrial noise, odours, dust, increased traffic, loss of visual amenity, and removal of native bushland.
Residents held a meeting, convened by David Hogan, to plan an avalanche of letters to the appropriate State Labor Government Ministers, asking them to intervene and stop Logan City Council from allowing this amendment.
This marked the beginning of the Safe Living Action Group. We understand 70-80 letters were sent out State Government Ministers at this time, namely, John Mickel, Stirling Hinchcliffe, Ian Rickus and Rachel Nolan.
After more months of letter writing and agitation from the community, eventually a State Government Senior Policy Advisor for the Minister for Infrastructure and Planning contacted Mr Hogan, and on September 10, 2010 (over a year since his LCC presentation),another powerpoint presentation was made by him to the Bligh Government.
It explained the planning issues and the problems residents have encountered in both dealing with the activities of farms in their neighborhoods, and in getting some kind of action from Logan City Council to mitigate the health and safety risks posed by the inappropriate locations of farms, many of which had been established with no oversight from planning departments, and no regard for tree-clearing laws or the State Government Guidelines in relation to buffer zones.
Again, click on the link below and download the file to view.
At the very next full sitting of Logan City Council, the Mayor, Pam Parker, repealed the amendment, and said that ‘council had acted to protect residents from chemical overspray as a result of numerous calls from the public’ (Jimboomba Times, September 22, 2012). But, worryingly, she was also quoted as saying, “It’s important for residents to understand that existing rural agriculture will not be impacted”. (In other words, chemical overspray is dangerous enough for residents to be protected in future, but those of us affected by it now will not be protected, and the farms close to our homes can continue to operate. Thanks for nothing, Madam Mayor!)
She then presented Councillors with a new amendment (Amendment 1C) and asked them to vote on it. Councillor Hajnal Ban (Division 11, representing us at this time) and Cr Sean Black, as well as Cr Graham Able, jacked up at this attempt to force a vote on an amendment no-one had been given to opportunity to read beforehand.
It appears to us that Logan City council will not enforce SPP 1/92 of the planning Scheme in our part of Greenbank because it would make some of the existing farms untenable. If the guidelines on buffer areas are enforced, some farms would be forced to shut down. We believe Logan Council’s intransigence in this matter is driven by a fear of legal action as farmers seek to recoup their losses.
We would argue that any financial loss incurred by Council as a result of enforcing SPP 1/92 will be peanuts compared to the costs of allowing this situation to continue. If, in years to come, residents continue to suffer and report health and amenity impacts due to the location of these farms and the lack of enforcement of the planning code that applies everywhere else in the Logan area, residents will have no choice but to seek legal recourse.
Given the number of complaints that both the former Beaudesert Shire Council, and now, Logan City Council, have received over the past decade or more regarding sick children and adults, dying pets and livestock, wildlife deaths following crop spraying, and the erosion of previously robust property values, a class action would undoubtedly have legs. But it is our hope that Logan City Council will come to its senses and act in the community’s interest before it comes to this.
At the time of writing (September 2012) the new LCC Planning Scheme has gone back to the drawing board a number of times. We still are unable to find out what is contained in Amendment 1C, but we suspect it may be an amendment that ensures that those of us who have lobbied for change will find our own situation remains unchanged. If that is the case, court action seems inevitable.
For the umpteenth time, we repeat: If our health and safety is compromised because of these poor planning decisions, residents will act.