Public meeting on blueberry industry

Concerns about the blueberry industry in the Coffs Harbour district will be discussed at a public meeting at the Cavanbah Centre, 191 Harbour Drive, on October 5 at 6.30pm.

Issues to be discussed include the regulation, scrutiny and control of an industry which could be considered as intensive agriculture.

The group "Citizens Unite" is alarmed about the impact the mass blueberry plantings are having on neighbours, waterways and the environment in general. Blueberries are being planted and netting structures installed near schools, homes and roads.

The concerns about these plantings include the extensive and regular use of fungicides, herbicides, pesticides. Other concerns are the proximity of these plantings to homes, the erosion risk caused by plantings on downhill slopes, fertilizer run-off, the use of bird scare guns and the high water use requirements of blueberry plants.

NSW Department of Primary Industries publication "Berry Plant Protection Guide, 2016-2017" recommends farms should establish "appropriate" buffer zones and identify sensitive areas where spray drift is likely to have the greatest adverse impact, including waterways, homes and schools.

The publication states "people have a moral and legal responsibility to prevent pesticides from drifting and contaminating neighbours crops and sensitive areas". But neighbours have described the current situation as "being spoon-fed these chemicals on a weekly basis".

Currently, unlike other intensive agriculture practices such as nurseries, piggeries and feedlots, blueberry farming is not classified as intensive agriculture and does not need a planning permit.