Cassy O’Connor MP | Greens Leader and Animal Welfare spokesperson
Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Environment spokesperson
Cassy O’Connor MP:
Almost three years have passed since shocking animal welfare abuses were first reported at Van Dairy’s farms. There have been multiple, distressing new reports since, the most recent in April this year with claims of animal welfare abuses, overstocking and effluent pollution.
Despite that, the Minister for Primary Industries Guy Barnett was unable – or unwilling – to provide any information on progress when questioned in Parliament today. Minister Barnett’s answer to the Greens’ questions provided no evidence farming conditions have been corrected, or penalties enacted on Van Dairy’s owners.
Tasmanians still don’t know whether anything has changed for the better for animals or the local environment at and near Van Dairy’s farms.
In mid-2019, 20 senior farm managers wrote collectively to Van Dairy with serious concerns about animal welfare. Then 18 months later, a whistle-blower showed evidence nothing had changed, provided photos of skinny and dead cows, and a 1000 litre container containing dead calves.
The Tasmanian Dairy Industry Authority’s audit of Van Dairy in February this year confirmed it had no confidence in the design or management of effluent systems on farms, and highlighted severe management issues and significant overstocking of cattle.
Minister Barnett seemed impervious to those shocking truths in Parliament today. He wrung his hands and talked about how he had “urged” Van Dairy to comply with their permits and the law, and sought briefings on the continuing issues across the 23 farms.
That’s not good enough. Minister Barnett is responsible for the welfare of animals in Tasmania. He has a legal obligation and moral imperative.
The Tasmanian Liberals accepted a donation of $25,000 from Van Dairy in 2018. Given the reluctance to act and radio silence from government on serious animal cruelty and environmental breaches, it’s fair to ask if that’s the cost of a free ride.
Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP:
The Liberals are apparently disregarding the serious effluent pollution issues at Van Dairy. When the Greens questioned the Environment Minister in Parliament today about the environmental breaches at Van Dairy, Minister Jaensch didn’t even have his own brief to respond with.
The EPA confirmed on 3 May it was investigating Van Dairy in response to nine Environmental Protection Notices issued by the Circular Head Council. Despite that situation, the Environment Minister claimed the EPA could not investigate the matter directly, and said it had been referred back to the Tasmanian Dairy Industry Authority,.
The Environment Protection Notices detailed gross failures by 19 of the 23 farms to meet the Farm Dairy Code of Practice, and 43% had "critical" or "major" non-compliances to the Effluent Management Code. That’s a huge amount of pollution going into Robbins Passage.
In February, the Tasmanian Dairy Industry Authority confirmed it had no confidence in Van Dairy’s ability to ensure the effluent systems on farms were designed or operated effectively.
What has Roger Jaensch, as Environment Minister, done to fix things since then? It appears Van Dairy have put no effort into upgrading and repairing effluent equipment, and stopping the massive quantities of effluent flowing directly into sensitive waterways.
Robbins Passage is important and sensitive. It is unacceptable for the Environment Minister – who is also the local Member – to ignore the large-scale pollution flowing from Van Dairy farms.