How Intensive Farming Impacts on Residents

Jimboomba Times, August 12, 2009:

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.  (UPDATE Dec 2013: Further estimates were even higher.  Legal action has been instituted to recover $250,000 to rectify the damage this farm has caused to the neighbour.  Stay tuned.)

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.

SOME HISTORY ON THE INTENSIVE HORTICULTURE FARM AT 52-60 HARVEST RD, GREENBANK

The property at 50 Harvest Road has changed hands several times in the past twelve years, making getting and verifying information difficult.  But the following information is, to the best of my knowledge, true.What we do know is that in the past, one of the xxxxx family’s (of 48 Harvest Rd) daughters owned the house and has told me personally that she sold up specifically because of her concerns for her children’s health from spray drift emanating from the then open farm at 52-60 Harvest Road.

A relative of the xxxxx family (of 38-44 Harvest Road) also owned 50 Harvest Road at one point.  The xxxxx’s can confirm that the farm next door did not contain their runoff after setting up their farm.  This caused a reticulation problem for the house at 50 Harvest Road, which threatened the house’s foundations.  Mr xxxxx himself did the work to mitigate the impending damage to his neighbour’s house.  He referred to this event in his submission to Council objecting to the new DA for 51-63 Harvest Rd, and I quote:

“I provide Land for Wildlife to protect and allow the bush animals to safely reproduce and live in their natural environment. (Half my three acres is natural bush, untouched for many years). …. The agriculture chemicals and fertilizers will eventually destroy the soil, and the native bush, the creek also runs through my property, some fish have died, also in my small dams …. The water run off – the damage it does, I have seen it first hand with my neighbour, his soil around his house was saturated.  I helped him put agee pipe in trenches to stop the foundations of his house being damaged. This runoff was from the igloos next door to him.”

Around two years ago, this same farm at 52-60 Harvest Road – with no development approval -increased the size of their dam, cleared the remaining back part of their block, and erected more greenhouses.  In the next big rain event, the top part of the easement we share with the xxxxx’s was washed out, impeding their access to their home.  Several months later, it was the neighbour at 50 Harvest Rd who borrowed the heavy machinery required to fix this access track so that the xxxxx’s (who are well into their 60s and have lived here around 30 years) would no longer have to walk over 100 metres through a sludgy mess to get to their house.  The new igloos have completely destroyed these people’s visual amenity. A quick look at their property using Google Earth shows that their home is now surrounded by greenhouses, instead of the private bushland they had chosen to build in.

In other words, this farm’s operations have impacted negatively on its immediate neighbours numerous times, and residents have had to help each other to undo the damage to their access and drainage caused by this farm’s activities.  This costs time and money these people can ill afford, while the farm blithely continues to operate with little interest in how their neighbours are affected.

We are also concerned about the lack of proper toilet facilities on these ‘farms’, and the lack of oversight to ensure compliance with the rules we residents are expected to comply with.  We have a composting toilet, but Council still required us to spend thousands of dollars on our grey water system, despite it only containing bath and washing up water, and despite our block being large and heavily treed.  The requirements made us joke that “one would think our bath water contained nuclear waste”, such was the rigorous requirements we were expected to meet. We assume this was because of our home’s proximity to Crewes Creek, and is therefore reasonable, and we fulfilled all the requirements at substantial cost.

Yet these same rules do not appear to apply to the farmers.  These supposedly ‘non-assessable’ farms do not contain their runoff and use neighbours’ fence lines as their own personal cesspit.  The sludge at the back of their immediate neighbour’s property smells suspiciously like human excrement, coming, we assume, from an unapproved toilet used by farm workers.  Workers at the open farm that is seeking to erect more greenhouses across the road at 51-63 Harvest Rd have used the elderly neighbour’s fence line at 49 Harvest Road as a toilet.  Photos of faeces and toilet paper left here can be viewed in David Hogan’s objection submission to this farm’s Material Change of Use DA.

Although the greenhouses may well lessen the problems with spray drift that open farms posed, the chemicals that are used still remain in the soil.  (We know, for instance, that Chlorpyrifos binds to soil), so when heavy rains cause runoff this possibly contaminated runoff goes onto the neighbouring properties and, ultimately, into Crewes Creek, and then the Oxley River.  It is clear that on the farmer’s existing protected horticulture farm at 52-60 Harvest Road, that nothing has been done to contain runoff to avoid these impacts on neighbours and the creek.  Naturally we are concerned that the people living at number 49 (who are long term residents in their 80s) will have to deal with similar issues if the farm next door to them is permitted to erect greenhouses.

When I have stated in letters to the Jimboomba Times that ‘these farmers have treated their neighbours with contempt’, this is what I am referring to.

Ultimately, these farms are in contravention of the State Government Planning Guidelines.  There are insufficient buffer areas between farms and homes, and therefore more negative impacts are inevitable.  I am disgusted that any Council – or indeed any person – would even consider subjecting our elderly neighbours, who have lived here for decades, to such an impost in their twilight years.

September 2011: yet another mass wildlife die-off after a farm in Thompson road sprays crops in their greenhouses.  dead magpies, parrots, kookaburras, as well as the neighbour’s domestic fowl was the result of this particular incident.

For further testimony on the impacts of these developments on neighbouring residents, read the page ‘Submissions on Material Change of Use, 51-63 Harvest Road’ where residents trying to stop another of these farms being established sent in over 58 objection submissions.  What some of these people have had to endure makes disturbing reading indeed.

These stories are just the tip of the iceberg.  What has been happening to long term residents of this area in the name of ‘farming’ is a travesty. It’s about time Logan City Council reigned in these environmentally-destructive chemical cowboys and held them to account.

Liz Hall-Downs, Sept 9, 2012

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