North Bank Dairy unfairly targeted

BELLINGEN Council’s director of environment and planning believes Raleigh Dairy Holdings is being unfairly targeted by some members of the local community.

Charlie Hannavy was responding to a report sent to the shire council this week alleging high levels of sulphuric acid and aluminium entering the Bellinger River from drains close to Raleigh Dairy Holdings’ North Bank Dairy.

The report, written by Repton resident and biochemist Bruce Champion, says irrigation of cow effluent from the dairy was causing a rising water table and mobilising the highly toxic pollutants in what are acid sulphate soils.

He, together with the Bellingen Environment Centre (BEC), is calling on the council to halt the irrigation.

Mr Hannavy said while the council would certainly be seeking independent tests to verify the results, there were other dairies operating next to rivers in the shire and RDH was receiving an unfortunate level of scrutiny.

“RDH has already fenced the riparian zone, which many other landholders have not even begun," Mr Hannavy said.

He said the council would be engaging a specialist to carry out the required tests, which were outside the council’s area of expertise.

“Acid sulphate soils are tricky to manage at the best of times.

“If there are any acid plumes coming from the drains and flowing into the Bellinger River then we need to determine where they are coming from and why first. Then we will be able to determine how to solve the problem.”

RDH director Stuart Brander said the statements made by Mr Champion on behalf of the BEC were misleading.

“Any attempt to blame alleged acid sulphate leaching into the Bellinger River on the current activities at North Bank Dairy is either erroneous or deliberately ignorant,” Mr Brander said.

“Acid sulphate leaching is a result of past drainage works across the Bellingen floodplain. This is not an issue specific to the dairy. Leaching will continue regardless of the dairy due to high rainfall events ands subsequent dry periods.

“Compared to those causes, the impact of the dairy is negligible.”

In a BEC press release Mr Champion did not refute that drainage channels cut last century had lowered the water table on the floodplain however he said the proposed land use change (intensification of the dairy activities) had the potential to increase the risk of exposure to contamination.

Mr Brander said RDH was already implementing extensive environmental measures and pursuing its development application in line with current environmental planning guidelines.

“Both of these measures adequately address Mr Champion’s concerns,” Mr Brander said.

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