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Donna Faragher: armed with unpublished complaint-mail and an unbankable license — destroys livelihoods

Donna Faragher, Minister for Environment and other stuff.

Some people have recently received replies from the Minister of the Department of Environment in Western Australia.

The ten second answer to the latest DEC excuses: The Thompsons License is unbankable; the Thompsons have already met the conditions; the complaints are unverified and often solicited, or relate to some other business, and Donna Faragher can teach you how to spell “business certainty” but she hasn’t got a clue what it is.

I’ve added my thoughts below, in between the full grey-box-quotes of the letter.


Minister For Environment; Youth

Thank you for your email to the Western Australian Government dated 22 September 2010 regarding the Narrogin Beef Producers cattle feedlot in Narrogin.

Good to see that through the magic of electronic communications it only took one month and four days to reply.

By way of background to your letter, Narrogin Beef is one of 44 licensed or registered cattle feedlots in Western Australia. The Narrogin Beef feedlot is the only feedlot in Western Australia which has been the subject of significant and ongoing community complaints about unreasonable odour. Between January 2005 and August 2009, 487 odour complaints were received, which complainants attributed to Narrogin Beef. This is a very high number of complaints regarding a licensed premises. Between December 2009 and August 2010, there were no cattle on-site and no community complaints regarding odour were received.

So DEC received 487 complaints from an unlisted number of people. Was that 22 complaints each from 22 people, or 487 complaints from one? Did it include emails? Did it include all the times DEC phoned up previous complainants to invite them to give more “feedback”? (Do solicited complaints count?) What process has the department used to make sure that none of those complaints are really about other causes, like the smell of the piggery next door? Or how about the time that I hear Coles put manure on their gardens and people complained. Janet told me those complaints were still in the file listed against Narrogin Beef. The local action group (helped by big city lawyers) also made sure that there were handy flyers around town with the local Complain-about-The-Narrogin-Beef-Feedlot-Hotline-Number (Dial: XXX YYY Winge-winge-winge). Anytime someone fertilized their garden,  there just might have been a handy reminder on the next door neighbor’s fridge to call Donna Faragher at DEC.

Bar the 21 substantiated complaints, none of the other hundreds of “complaints” and details thereof are publicly available. We know this is an inflated statistic, because 6,000 recordings were done for months throughout the local area and most days there was not even a smell at all, let alone something worth complaining about. We also know the two nearest neighbors to Matt and Janet say the smell is not an issue and they not only want the farm to stay, they want it to grow. They say: 15,000 head (as per the original Works Approval) — yes please. They ought to know. Then there’s the point that there were hardly any complaints in 2006, before Matt spoke out as a skeptic of Global Warming, but maybe cows didn’t smell in 2006?

DEC point out that the complaints have stopped now that there are no cattle. Well, when DEC, and the EDO heard that the cattle had finally gone, it wouldn’t have been too hard to phone that message around, and stop soliciting complaints eh? Modern technology and the mental capacity of a five year old with a wish list would have been able to come up with a plan as cunning as that. As it happens Janet heard that complaints were made in December 2009 — while Narrogin Beef had almost no cattle at all, but before the stakeholders realized that most of the cows were gone. Can you smell ten cows from 5 kilometers? Yes, especially when there are 12,000 pigs next door.

As it happens the petition of 900 local signatures in support of the Thompsons was collected when Narrogin Beef was operating at peak capacity, and before it made further dedicated efforts to reduce any odours.

Donna Faragher is foolish to resort to a PR war waged with unverified “complaints”.

If all it takes is an undocumented list of 487 complaints to shut down a business, then how many complaints does it take to shut down a government department?

The complaints against DEC would easily outnumber the complaints against Narrogin Beef. For starters we know that 700 people were not only angry enough at DEC to email, they actually donated money to the Thompsons children. How many emails has the Western Australian Government received in support of the Thompsons? Surely, they’ll rush to add them up for us?

In January 2009, I determined appeals lodged against the Narrogin Beef Producers licence, and found that the licence conditions issued by DEC were reasonable at the time, given the level of environmental and community concern regarding emissions and discharges from the premises, particularly odours. I provided Narrogin Beef Producers with a way forward that required it to demonstrate environmental improvements, principally in waste management, to enable it to increase the feedlot capacity up to 10,000 head of cattle.

Yet again, Ms Donna Faragher shows every inch of her business acumen, all her many years of experience in running commercial enterprises  (that would be “zero”). Donna Faragher was raised in prestigious private schools, trained as a teacher, and her entire working life was apparently spent as a political staffer — in other words, she’s got no idea what a business is, not even in the academic sense, let alone the real-world sense. Yet here she is, ruling on what’s  “reasonable” in the business world — being the Kingmaker of West Australian business. But hey, she has created a national park.

Faragher thinks there’s a chance that a bank might loan the Thompsons lots of money based on a license with clause A1.  This is the five year license that lasts five minutes. A1 is the clause where no one can offend anyone anywhere on the planet “unreasonably” (as decided by DEC, who’ve proved to be as unreasonable themselves as any Western Government can be). And as for the theoretical 10,000 cows, it’s really 6,000, unless the Thompsons jump through some hoops that they’ve already successfully jumped, but this time for some inexplicable reason, DEC notices.

The arduous Local Community Consultation Committee (LCCC) process that Faragher asked for resulted in a clear recommendation for “10,000” unconditional cows. Since that apparently wasn’t good enough (even though it was exactly what she requested), how do we know the new conditions will still be worth achieving by the time the Thompsons achieve them? Faragher writes about the LCCC below as if it supports her argument. Did she really sign this letter?

I also endorsed the formation of a Local Community Consultation Committee, which included Narrogin Beef Producers, to provide advice to DEC on the extent to which Narrogin Beef Producers had implemented the steps set out in my appeal determination of January 2009. Following this advice, DEC wrote to Narrogin Beef Producers on 31 July 2009, approving the Waste Management Plan, issuing an amended licence consistent with my appeal determination, and providing approval to stock up to 10,000 head of cattle on-site. In addition, DEC advised that it would fund two odour surveys to be undertaken when feedlot operation reached 6,000 head and at 10,000 head of cattle. The purpose of these surveys, together with an odour survey conducted in 2007, was to provide a basis for validating and demonstrating sustained odour reductions on-site.

It doesn’t matter what the Thompsons do, it’s never good enough. Why? Could it be that they speak with American accents, or that they’re not active vegetarians? Could it be that DEC doesn’t much like climate skeptics, or, tick all of the above? Who knows?

Could it be just a weak 35 year old minister, too easily intimidated or persuaded by senior department bureaucrats?

As this licence was due to expire on 31 March 2010, Narrogin Beef Producers requested a five year licence to provide greater certainty for the business. DEC agreed to this request and issued a new five year licence in similar terms on 8 March 2010. Narrogin Beef Producers and three other parties lodged appeals objecting to the conditions of the current licence. I recently determined these appeals, and confirmed that the feed lot can stock up to 10,000 head of cattle for the five year period of the licence. DEC has incorporated my appeal determination into a draft amended licence, which was issued to Narrogin Beef Producers on 30 July 2010 for comment. A copy of my most recent licence appeal determination is available to the public on the Office of the Appeals Convenor’s website at www.appealsconvenor.wa.gov.au.This report, together with the Appeals Convenor’s report and previous appeal determinations which are also available on the website, will provide additional background about matters related to Narrogin Beef Producers.

I trust this information is of assistance.
Yours sincerely,

Hon Donna Faragher JP MLC


10th Floor, Dumas House, 2 Havelock Street, West Perth Western Australia 6005

Telephone: +61 892137250 Facsimile: +61 892137255

Email: [email protected]

Time to write — the Thompsons need all the help they can get. Please send emails to Colin Barnett (the Premier of WA). Actually, why not the entire WA State Parliament. Ms Faragher needs to know everyone is waiting for her to provide some good answers. With a proper license the Thompsons might be able to arrange a loan. Though they are long due compensation for damages as well. Faragher has let her department waste taxpayer money for no net benefit to the environment.)

The one page list of information on The Thompsons: for donations, maps, petitions and timelines.

The Western Australian Parliament. Please be polite.

[email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

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