Tasmania’s current approach to managing the use of agricultural and veterinary chemicals is largely based on out-of-date codes of practice from 2000 (aerial spraying) and 2001 (ground spraying) that rely on voluntary industry compliance with virtually no possibility of prosecutions for contraventions. The state government initiated a review of agricultural and veterinary chemicals management in 2008 and there were public consultation processes in April 2008 and in May 2011.
Last September, (Tasmanian Conservationist No.323) we reported on some of the good and bad elements of the proposed draft Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Regulations 2011. We concluded at the time that the new approach was far from what we believed is needed but constituted a significant improvement on the current approach and the new chemical regulations should be enacted by the parliament.
New regulations passed the lower house of the Tasmanian Parliament last November but hit a blockage in the Legislative Council.
The Legislative Council has successfully bought time to allow farming interests to pressure the Minister for Primary Industries and Water Bryan Green. We now fear that Minister Green will cave into this lobbying and will ignore more than four years of work aimed at modernising Tasmania’s archaic chemical management system.
By siding with industry scare tactics, the Legislative Council and Minister Green are putting the most vulnerable people in the community at risk as well as the natural environment. To highlight just one example, it may shock many in the community to know that under the current approach a farmer applying pesticide from a large tractor-based boom sprayer is not required under the code of practice to notify a nearby school, childcare centre or hospital before spraying and there is virtually no possibility of prosecutions for contaminating these places in contravention of the code of practice.