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Van Dairy Group - EPA Investigation into Effluent Pollution

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Tags: VDL Dairy, Environment Protection Authority


The Greens will certainly be at that meeting tomorrow and we look forward to having a productive conversation about local government and how things can be improved.

Minister, the EPA confirmed on 3 May they were investigating Van Dairy, Australia's largest dairy farm, in response to nine environmental protection notices issued by the Circular Head Council. These notices detailed gross failures by 19 of the 23 farms to meet the Farm Dairy Premises Effluent Management Code of Practice, with 43 per cent of farms having critical or major non-compliances to the effluent management code. In late February, the Tasmanian Dairy Industry Authority reported it had no confidence in Van Dairy's ability to ensure the effluent systems on farms were designed or operated effectively. They noted no effort was made to upgrade and repair effluent equipment and massive quantities of cow effluent was flowing directly into sensitive waterways.

It has been two months since the EPA told the Greens they were going on site to investigate Van Dairy's large-scale environmental pollution, but you have been utterly silent about the corrective response. The serious issues at Van Dairy may well be ongoing. Can you report to the House, what corrective actions have been taken to protect the local waterways? Have all critical and major breaches been corrected and, if not, when will they be?

Ms O'Connor - Good question. For some reason the minister didn't have a brief in his QTB folder and has taken one from the minister for Primary Industries.

Mr SPEAKER - Order. The question has been asked and we should listen in silence to the minister.



Mr Speaker, the girl in green has been looking at my notes too, across the Chamber.

Dr Woodruff - The girl in green?

Mr JAENSCH - The girl next to me has been copying my homework.

Dr Woodruff - Could you be more patronising? That is entirely inappropriate for a minister to say to another member of parliament.

Members interjecting.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Mr JAENSCH - Mr Speaker, I thank the member for Franklin for her question. Certainly, I am aware that the Tasmanian Dairy Industry Authority, the TDIA, as the regulator, is investigating and managing effluent issues identified at Van Dairy farms.

Ms O'Connor - What is the EPA doing?

Mr JAENSCH - The Environmental Protection Authority is also involved. This is a matter for the regulators. I emphasise my strong support for the TDIA and its important independent role as a regulator and of the maintenance of high standards which we are committed to. We are strong supporters of the dairy industry and note that the issues at the Van Dairy farms do not reflect issues in the dairy industry as a whole. However, while this is a matter for the regulator, we have requested and been regularly briefed by the chair of the TDIA since government was formed and we have been briefed also by the director of the EPA. With regard to the role of the EPA, the director of the EPA has advised that the dairy farming industry is not a level 2 activity and therefore not regulated directly by the EPA. However, this does not mean that the dairy industry is not regulated. The TDIA regulates effluent from dairies through the Farm Dairy Premises Effluent Management Code of Practice.

Dr Woodruff - The EPA had an investigation that started in March.

Mr SPEAKER - Order. You have asked the question. Allow the minister to finish, please.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Mr Speaker. What we are seeking here is clarity. The EPA was investigating and now the minister says they are not.

Mr SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, that is not a point of order. It is not an opportunity to rephrase the question or anything else. You have asked one question of the minister. You will allow him to answer that question. If there are other questions coming from that, you will have other opportunities within the orders to further advance your questioning.

Mr JAENSCH - Thank you, Mr Speaker. A memorandum of understanding sets out responsibilities in relation to dairy farm effluent between the TDIA and the EPA. While the Circular Head Council is not currently a signatory to the MOU, the TDIA is operating in accordance with its principles in the matter. I am advised that the EPA is supporting the council in its management of the environmental impact by auditing the environmental protection notices issued by the council and is collaborating with the TDIA.

Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Mr Speaker. It goes to standing order 45. I drew the minister's attnetion to relevance and he did not answer the question about what corrective actions had been taken.

Mr SPEAKER - Order. The minister has sat down.