by John Edwards, 14
November 2008
The meeting was organised by Peter Ellem, adviser to Member for Page, Janelle Saffin, and held in
Ms Saffin's electoral office in Lismore. The expected presence of up to three FEA representatives
was reduced to just one, the plantation company being represented by General Manager Plantations,
Chris Barnes. A Kyogle Councillor was also unable to attend.
Others in attendance were: Bruce Ralston, farmer/grazier from Bonalbo; Jeff Finlay from the
Pikapeen and Cherry Tree Environment Centre; Allan Reardon, farmer/grazier from Coaldale; Peter
Ellem, and myself, an executive member of NCEC and the Clarence Environment Centre.
The meeting lasted two and a half hours, and a wide range of concerns were raised including:
The excessive use of pesticides; the impact on the environment, and health of local residents
from being directly sprayed and spray drift entering water tanks etc. There was also a strong case
made in relation to pollution of waterways and land over the long term, and the use of cocktails
of chemicals, some of which are banned overseas.
Ms Saffin has already spoken out strongly against aerial spraying, and the point was made that
the 150 metre buffer between aerial spraying operations and homes is totally ineffective. Winds
and thermal updrafts have the the ability to spread drift for kilometres, people are not confined to
indoors, and toxic substances ,that have been linked with cancer and birth defects, drifting onto
neighbouring properties is totally unacceptable.
Attendees were highly critical of the lack of communication and understanding from plantation
operators. It was reported that farmers leasing their land were never told of the amount of
chemical use that would occur. A lifetime experience has told them that trees grow better than
anything else on the North Coast, and do so naturally without chemical use.
There was reportedly no communication informing neighbours when spraying would occur, or
what chemicals were to be used. One well documented instance was reported where the EP&R
fined a helicopter pilot a pitiful $400 for allowing spray to impact a neighbour. In that event
FEA denied using Simizine herbicide even though the test results proved otherwise.
There was also reports of complaints being 'fobbed off' by FEA executives, and one where a
land-owner being directly sprayed, was abused when he asked them to stop.
The massive changes in land use and the subsequent flow-on effects for rural businesses and
communities (in the Bonalbo area it was stated that as much as 30% of agricultural land has
already been turned over to plantations.
Issues relating to world food needs and the loss of food-producing land to wood-chip production
was also raised briefly, as was the higher prices being paid for land by plantation operators,
which makes it uncompetitive for farmers who do not have support of the same lucrative tax
concessions made available to Managed Investment Funds.
Biodiversity issues, where it was pointed out that the plantation modus operandi works against
nature by planting monocultures which results in the need for excessive pesticide use which
effectively kills off natural biological control systems. The point was strongly made that insects
and frogs, all of which are known to be destroyed by the chemicals being used, are vital links in
the food chain which allows biodiversity to thrive and provide a natural biological control of