Owners of a Nimbin pig farm were this week given the go-ahead to upgrade facilities, including a new shed, on condition they test impacts of the piggery on surrounding water quality.
Lismore City Council’s (LCC) meeting this week heard from neighbours who voiced their concern over noise and air pollution and the impact that further development at the piggery would have on their health and amenity.
The piggery is located in a rural zone on Mountain Top Road at Nimbin.
Residents Gill Shilling and Daniel Demelford spoke against the development during public access, citing the impacts of current practices at the piggery.
‘This development application (DA) has acted as a trigger and brought together residents who have suffered in silence for many years,’ Mr Shilling said.
‘We endure foul odours 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. We hear loud and distressing noises from the animals at all times of the day and night,’ he said.
‘Waste and carcass disposal practices are attracting large numbers of wild predatory dogs. We have to live with almost raw pig effluent being sprayed out onto paddocks that 80 head of cattle also graze and take their water from.
‘Effluent is caught in the water runoff that joins neighbouring properties and creeks.
‘This poses a dangerous public health risk. Neighbours and visitors are impacted [on] by aerosol particles, which carry pathogenic material carried by wind drift.’
Mr Shilling questioned Council’s approval of dwellings within required buffer zones.
‘Over the last 30 years, Council has approved up to nine residential dwellings on small blocks that fall within the council’s Local Environment Plan (LEP) directed primary buffer zone of five hundred metres,’ he said.
‘One additional resident, who is only 120 metres from the site, was living in their house when the first piggery was approved in 1983.’
Water testing was recently carried out by the environmental analysis lab from Southern Cross University (SCU) on the water exiting the piggery.
‘The incidence of faecal coliforms was measured at levels more than 1,000 times higher than what is considered safe for either primary or secondary contact by humans,’ said Mr Shilling.
The ability of Council to ensure the piggery owners comply with their DA conditions was questioned by the residents on behalf of Mr Shilling.
Mr Demelford lives with his wife and children adjacent to the piggery and pointed out the cultural significance of the piggery site.
‘The piggery is positioned in a unique and beautiful location under the Nimbin Rocks, which has been a significant and sacred site to local Indigenous people for thousands of years,’ Mr Demelford said.
‘Positioning such a polluting enterprise in this site is disrespectful,’ he said.
Cr Graham Meineke questioned the residents why they had not complained to Council in the past.
Mr Shilling explained that the previous owner was ‘difficult to deal with and had told many residents that he intended to shut the piggery down’.
Mr Demelford backed those comments.
A resident yelled from the gallery that he ‘had complained to Council but [his] complaint was not accepted’.
Owners of the 550-head piggery also spoke at public access time.
Matt and Tracey Linton over a year ago took over the rural business, which had been running since the late 1970s, and said they were trying to bring the business up to standard practice.
‘Industry itself has imposed a 2017 deadline to comply with new animal welfare housing standards at piggeries,’ Mrs Linton said.
‘The current piggery shed is in excess of 30 years old. It is more cost effective to build a new shed with modern technology installed than it is to renovate the existing facility.’
Mrs Linton said, ‘modern technology that includes modern feeding systems and climate-controlled housing benefited not only the animals but a better working environment for staff’.
‘The environmental advantages will include less water usage and better effluent control. The current DA is not for an expansion and we should not be held accountable for practices from a previous owner.’
Councillors resolved to place conditions on the DA so that the Lintons implement water-quality monitoring programs, which will sample water both up- and downstream from the site.
Samples will only need to be provided each September.
Cr Isaac Smith commended the water testing conditions on the DA to ‘respond to health issues of the community’, but which also support a thriving rural industry.
Cr Smith also acknowledged that compliance is one of the biggest areas facing Council.
Cr Greg Bennett is strongly opposed to placing further restrictions on farmers as they ‘reduce their viability’ and affirmed the rights of farmers to farm in rural zones.
Cr Bennett made reference to a recent Landline program, which advised that ‘the Climate Change Fund can pay for gasification of the odour at piggeries, which produces electricity’.
Cr Gianpiero Battista echoed Cr Bennett’s concerns.
‘Are we monitoring any other farms in our local government area (LGA)? Are we monitoring the effluent from herds of cows up- and downstream?’ he asked.