Australian Native Landscapes, Cooranbong

10th May 2016

Mr GREG PIPER ( Lake Macquarie ) ( 20:32 :25 ): It is disappointing for me that once again I speak about an issue that was raised in this place some three years ago and have to report that the situation has not improved—and, indeed, in some ways is worse. I refer to the operations of Australian Native Landscapes [ANL] at Cooranbong in my electorate, which appears to be operating in breach of licensing conditions and court orders. In short, many of the residents living nearby are at their wit's end after suffering years of unreasonable impact on their amenity and their physical and mental states. Australian Native Landscapes has operated on a site in Crawford Road at Cooranbong since 2000.

It is a national supplier of horticultural products and a large-scale producer of organic composts. The site initially housed a small organic potting mix business but operations have grown significantly since the ANL purchase and use of inputs such as sewage sludge and agricultural by-products that perhaps exacerbate odour problems from the operation. The operation has attracted a large amount of angst from neighbouring residents, Lake Macquarie City Council, the Environment Protection Authority [EPA] and me, but, regretfully, even after stringent conditions were imposed on the operation following successful legal challenges, ANL appears to be ignoring any judgement or authority and is carrying on unheeded.

Most of the concerns among residents relate to the offensive odours that emanate from the site. Arguably these are in clear breach of licence conditions and court orders. Other issues relate to noise, dust, air pollution, leaching from the site, and traffic impacts from trucks visiting the site. I have visited the site on numerous occasions over the years and can confirm that at times the odour from the operation can be overwhelming. It is an odour that has at times driven some people from their homes and caused medical conditions for others. Both the council and the EPA have been stymied in their efforts to get a satisfactory outcome for neighbouring residents. But they were successful in getting court orders in 2014, which placed what was thought to be further stringent controls on ANL's operations.

Around three years ago the company's managing director, Patrick Soars, visited my office and made various assurances. One of my staff members was present and we were assured by Mr Soars that he understood the concerns of neighbours and that he was looking at options that would see the malodorous operation moved to a location remote from adjoining neighbours. Unfortunately, it appears we were duped. Three years later there is no indication of any intended move. In fact, the opposite appears to be true because the company has expanded some of its controversial operations and located them even closer to the boundaries of long-suffering neighbours.

Again, it appears that these operations are being carried out contrary to court orders. I imagine that further legal action is not far away. There appears to be ample evidence of odour coming from the site that ANL is not licensed to allow. Neighbours also report that dams are well above limits set by the courts and truck movements continue outside allowable operating hours. There is also evidence that ANL is using land that the court ruled was off limits. The court orders also required an additional development consent be finalised by July, but it is now mid-May and the council has confirmed that a development application is yet to be lodged.

The neighbours are fed up in the extreme. Peter Clarke and Karen Buchanan have lived nearby for many years and fought ANL for almost 16 years. Karen suffers medical conditions that doctors have told her are exacerbated by the emissions from the ANL site. The couple's grandchildren do not visit anymore because when they do, they leave sick. Other neighbours have simply sold up and moved because they could not tolerate the odours any more. Neil and Rosalie McGlynn, who own a property adjoining the ANL site, choose to stay with family in Sydney on occasions when the odours become intolerable. They feel the proof is clear that ANL is operating unlawfully but are slowly losing faith in the capacity of authorities to do something about it.

Land and Environment Court orders state that if the company breaches its licence conditions and other orders, its operations should be shut down. Council and Environment Protection Authority [EPA] records, along with anecdotal evidence clearly on display at the location, show that orders are simply not being complied with. After all this time it is understandable that these residents have lost faith in the court system, their council and indeed the EPA. I once again bring this matter to the attention of the Minister for the Environment in the hope that something can be done, but the best outcome would be for ANL to recognise that this facility is incompatible with neighbour amenity and do what Mr Soars indicated some three years ago—that is, relocate.

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