Apologies to those far away who are interested in more international stories, but as Matt Thompson says, it’s sure isn’t dull around here — yesterday he locked the farm gates just in time. The administrators came calling again to start removing items. He and they had a Mexican standoff for 2 long hours — he with camera in hand, they in their car. Matt tells me he can’t leave the property.
I wrote two letters, and sent the first one below to our politicians and The West Australian, and The Australian. I sent the lower letter to A Current Affair (who have expressed an interest) and also to Senator Cory Bernardi and Dennis Jensen, the Federal Member for Tangney. Both men have rung me in the last few days to talk about the Thompsons. They both give me hope that despite all the self serving pork barrelling and spin, there are still good people — great people — in our Federal Parliament. Senator Bernardi was planning to raise the issue in Parliament last night.
I’ve included a third letter from James Doogue (written in July) below mine, because he has taken a different angle with some very valid points and a clear set of actions the state ought to take (and a list of WA parliamentarians). Right now we need someone to stop the administrators. Thanks to James for his help.
Politicians can ignore one letter, but not a flood! Thanks everyone for your help. –JN
Dear Mr Barnett, (Premier of Western Australia)
Please help the Thompsons in Narrogin and intervene to delay the administrators.
This below is a book that I hope never gets finished. But it has been started.
The Thompson’s followed every rule, broke no law, have no outstanding infringement notices, but the plans and rules kept changing. After they had put their money and hearts on the table the DEC added conditions that no one could meet, dangling them by a thread month after month as the Thompsons complied but the debts piled up. They passed all the tests, have local support, but they are being driven to bankruptcy by the Department of Environment and Conservation of WA.
People overseas are shocked at what can happen to honest hardworking entrepreneurs who come to WA. It’s sending a dreadful message of sovereign risk to the world. The receivers are just days away from making this injustice very hard to put right.
Federal politicians are standing up for West Australians, but not our state government?
In the last week hundreds of thousands of people all over the world have read their story. Hundreds of people have donated and in just a few days $30,000 US dollars has been given to help their children. The word is that tomorrow (Wednesday) one or two federal politicians are meeting with Cameron Clyne, CEO of NAB to try to solve this. Things are dire. The administrators are visiting the house today. A family with four children face eviction and loss of their life savings.
A good place to start: 1. Tyranny: How to destroy a business with environmental red tape
Thank you for your immediate urgent attention and help to stop this train wreck. I applaud the way you stood up for WA against the Federal Health take over.
But one local family desperately needs you, and they have a growing band of thousands of supporters.
The overseas site Watts Up With That gets 100,000 hits a day and has covered this three times in the last week.
Please ask if you need any more details.
The one page synopsis
SENT TO A CURRENT AFFAIR TODAY
Here’s how it is:
Matt and Janet Thompson came out in 2001 with money and expertise from the US. The business they set up was so successful they were turning away work in 2007.
They’re popular, honest, hardworking but they are now under seige from administrators (they waited at the gates this morning for 2 hours!). The Thompsons and their four children are Australian citizens now, and face eviction in two weeks. They lose everything: years of work and their life savings, their home, their cars, the lot.
They have broken no law, there are no outstanding environmental infringements, they’ve done everything the department asked, but the department changed it’s mind, cut their license in half, forcing them to lose money on contract they had already signed for feed and water for the cows they were suddenly not allowed to have. All along, their feedlot was located next to a piggery with thousands of pigs that has operated for 28 years.
They are so popular in Narrogin that:
- 900 people signed a petition in their support (that was back in 2007 when they were running with 10,000 cattle).
- People give Matt $50 notes in the street and tell him to keep fighting.
- The local shire has written in support urging the DEC to allow them to run the full 14,490 capacity they have works approval for.
- Barry Carbon who wrote the 1986 EPA legislation chaired a local committee and also supports them and agrees they should have permission to run.
- Their two closest neighbours want them to stay and increase their cattle holdings up to the original design.
- 6000 recordings of smells taken in the town show the odours are not unusual or a problem. Most days no one in town can smell anything.
- We have raised $30,000 around the world in a week to support their children. Many people in the US are appalled at what’s happened to them. They are asking why Australians would do this.
This family are being destroyed by a few complainants (with a lot of help from the DEC), all of the complainants moved to a rural area, near to a piggery, but now complain that they don’t like the smell. Some of those who complain even moved in after the Thompsons Beef feedlot was set up. Some of those who complain have also applied to rezone their land so they can subdivide.
There are only 21 substantiated complaints.
- The Thompsons spent a year getting Works Approval from the Department of Environment and Conservation in WA (a year!) to run a feedlot 4.5 km from Narrogin for up to 14,490 cattle.
- They invested all their money and time, and complied with every request.
- They gradually built the farm up to 10,000 head, by 2007, and then applied to increase it to near 15,000.
- But suddenly in March 2008, they were cut back to 6,000, after they had paid to build the farm to carry 15,000, and locked themselves into the contracts for feed and water.
- They appealed immediately. The appeal for their 2 year license took 14 months. When it came through for them, there was only 9 months left. The banks won’t loan The Thompsons the money on a license that short, and the DEC had written in clauses effectively saying that the farm would lose it’s license if any one person complained about the smell. So if a few people don’t like the Thompsons all they have to do is ring and complain and the farm will be shut down based solely on their opinion and no evidence. We don’t convict people in court based on something so insubstantial. Yet we’ll ruin a family. The Thompsons wanted the DEC to set emissions limits that could be measured. The department refused to.
Some other beef farms don’t need licenses in WA — even large ones – they are registered, but not subject to licensing. The Thompsons were told originally they wouldn’t need licenses either. But then the DEC changed it’s mind, and said they’d have to because they were within 100m of a watercourse. You can go to their farm (we have photos I can send you) and film the so-called watercourses and mock the DEC. The watercourses are flat paddocks, with no banks, nor beds, nor flowing water. Even in a 100 year storm any run-off would eventually wash into distant salt pans, threaten no birds, no fish, and cause no algal bloom. This is not about the environment.
Is there a vendetta by some green elements of the DEC against the Thompsons ?
What has the world come to when people think we can move to farm land and then shut down the farms, even when they are run with world’s best practice measures?
This sends a dreadful message to the world. “Don’t invest in WA because the government can’t be trusted to keep their side of the deal”. The Thompsons had an agreement to run a farm of 14,490 cattle, as long as they stuck to the rule book. They did, but the government won’t let them have more than 6000 cattle now, and the banks won’t loan them money to run because they know the license can be withdrawn without warning.
I have documented all this on my website. Two federal politicians are taking up the cause in Parliament.
I am ashamed of our government and the mental torture it has put these good honest people through.
Are we a country run by rule of law where the law applies equally to everyone?
The Thompsons are under seige, trapped in their farm for fear the administrators will take things away if they leave their home.
To our State Government
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Premier.Barnett@dpc.wa.gov.au, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Minister.Castrilli@dpc.wa.gov.au, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Minister.Faragher@dpc.wa.gov.au, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
From: James Doogue
Subject: Matt and Janet Thompson – Feed lot Narrogin WA
Dear Members of the Coalition Government in WA,
No doubt you are aware of the case of Matt and Janet Thompson who have had their lives turned upside down by bureaucratic red tape and obstructionism in trying to develop a successful feed lot business. This project was given the green light and was planned and built on the basis of approvals received. Since then the goal posts have been continuously moves, ostensibly on the basis of environmental concerns and complaints from a small group of people. The feed lot is some 4 kilometres from town and next to a very large piggery, and is in a rural area yet most of the issues which have been raised are related to odours. Any greenhouse gas concerns raised are mischievous because if these cattle are not producing GHG’s at this feed-lot they will produce them else where. Stopping this project from operating will not reduce net GHG’s in this state.
At a time when country populations are declining because there are no local jobs, it should be a priority to support long term jobs in country areas. The vast majority of the vocal community support the feed lot. The State Government needs to take up the cause of this business immediately.
There are five steps I believe the state government of WA should take immediately:
- Firstly suspend any State charges being levied on this business for unused allocations of water.
- Refund payments for unused water allocations made while the bureaucrats have denied this business to operate at it’s originally approved level of production.
- Ask the local government to refund rates and other charges paid during this period the Thompson’s have been forced to operate at a loss.
- Step in and approve the feed lot operation and original specifications and with a long term licence grant to allow these people to earn a living and reduce debt.
- Consider an ex gratia compensation payment to the Thompson’s for the unnecessary red tape, delays and interference and damage the government bureaucrat have caused.
If you are not familiar with the story then I direct you to:
a) A summary of the story.
b) All related links and information (including evidence, maps and graphs).
c) A review of complaints show activist motivations and how limited the opposition really is.
d) Part I and Part 2 of the story in the Thompson’s own words at Youtube.
I hope you will do what you can to help this family and a potentially beneficial business.