Mayor Denise Knight has defended the use of ratepayers' money on a plan to protect students from spray drift at Bonville.
Mayor Denise Knight has defended the use of ratepayers' money on a plan to protect students from spray drift at Bonville. TREVOR VEALE

Rates used to protect students from farm chemicals

THE Mayor has defended the use of ratepayers' money to protect school students from spray drift.

Coffs Harbour City Council will give the Bonville Public School P&C $15,510 to plant a buffer to protect students from chemical spray drift from adjoining farms.

The Advocate has obtained a copy of the P and C application for the Environmental Levy grant which shows testing has been conducted on the school grounds with some alarming results.

"In recent times there has been an increase in intensive agriculture on neighbouring properties to the school consisting mainly of blueberry farming. This has resulted in spray drift of pesticides and other farming chemicals onto the school properties.

"There have been tests on the rainwater and traces have been detected in the water collected on the roofs of school buildings," the application reads.

"The main play areas are located between the farming areas and the school buildings, leading to the obvious conclusion that spray drift must be settling in some quantity on the oval, sandpit and other areas in the children's play area."


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More than 100 comments were posted on the Advocate's Facebook page in response to the news that council would be funding the works with many asking why farms were allowed to be established so close to schools in the first place.

"So us rate payers have to fork out for a problem created by privately owned farms? Thanks for that Coffs Harbour City Council. Here's an idea - implement planning controls that require farms to put in, and pay for, safeguard measures themselves," Sam Newman said.

"It seems absurd that children impacted by this are the ones having to build the protection from a grant rather than a sensible decision being made not to permit such a practice near a school," Virginia Halford said.

"The council have had plenty of time to nip this in the bud with neighbours complaining about the worst farming practices ever...a law suit is not far off," Craig Kerr said.

Currently farms are not required to establish buffers between schools and other neighbouring properties but council is in the process of reviewing their policy on managing Intensive Plant Agriculture.

Mayor Denis Knight defended the grant for Bonville P&C.

"The application went to an independent panel and matched the criteria and all councillors supported their recommendation for the health and well-being of the students," Cr Knight said.


Bonville Public School. next to blueberry farm. 24 JUNE 2019
A farm up against the boundary of Bonville Public School. TREVOR VEALE

Funds will be used to plant trees at the boundary of the school incorporating a landscape design to create an education resource using elements of bush tucker and other Gumbaynggirr influences.

Stage 2 will include negotiation with the farm on the opposite side of Glennifer Road to plant a vegetation buffer on their land.

The Environmental Levy program currently raises around $1.3 million a year at an average cost of $44 per ratepayer, of which approximately $300,000 is available to community groups.

The Bonville P&C grant was one of several allocated to programs across the LGA including $23,000 for the Nana Glen Landcare Group to continue research into the impacts of excessive fertiliser entering the Bucca Bucca Creek catchment.

The NSW Education Department has been contacted for comment.