How much environmental damage will it take before the intensive horticultural industry is properly regulated?
If I want a swimming pool, I have to lodge a development application. However, berry growers can transform forests into a ‘sea’ of plastic with little or no approval needed. Certainly, no environmental impact assessment is required.
Just this week, I received an email from a distressed Corindi resident, claiming: “In the past year there has been an alarming rate of land clearing between Coffs Harbour and Grafton. We are talking about clear felling of established trees with the ground scraped bare. The fallen trees are then burned, destroying whatever else may have been harbouring in them.
Almost invariably this is done before blueberries are established and covered with nets, resulting in total habitat destruction.
The advent of these farms seems to coincide with an almost complete
disappearance of bees, both exotic and native species, that I am used to have
visiting my garden, I used to have scores of tetragonulas, several peacock
carpenter and carpenter bees, and resin bees visiting and nesting but this
season despite an abundance of flowers, both native and exotics, they have all
I am very saddened and concerned about this, but have no idea how to address this or who to talk to”.
How do we respond to this cry for help? The Clarence Environment Centre, and others, have called for the horticultural industry to be regulated for almost 20 years.
We have continually lobbied authorities, and Ministers, to no avail. One Minister even responded saying he was not in favour of regulation because it "encouraged non-compliance". How's that for pathetic?
Scandals like the discovery of excessive nutrients in Coffs waterways, and illegal migrant workers as well as the revelation that over 80% of growers investigated were non-compliant with water regulations (i.e. stealing water), and the latest pollution of Woolgoolga Lake, have all failed to bring change. Instead, the government simply throws more money on advisory committees, and grants to help growers follow "best practice".
- John Edwards
Published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Clarence Valley Independent , September 9,, 2021