Nambucca Valley farmers complain of over-spraying from blueberry farming businesses

Blueberry rows are just a few metres inside the property’s boundary at this Eungai Creek blueberry farm. Over-spraying is difficult to avoid when buffer zones have not been installed. Photo: supplied by Erik Von Forell.

THE NSW Farmers Association has reminded its members to be mindful of spray drift to neighbouring properties at a time when many Nambucca Valley residents have expressed concerns on the issue, particularly in terms of the blueberry industry.

Spray drift is the movement of pesticide spray droplets outside of the application site during or shortly after application.

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Spray drift can cause conflict when pesticides cause off-target damage or injury to persons, property, animals and plants.

The NSW Farmers Association has called on farmers to be extra careful during spray operations, noting that spray drift caused significant damage during the 2022-23 season, and have called on property owners to report spray drift incidents to the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) despite concerns from the community that the EPA don’t have the resources and powers to regulate spray drift incidents.

Lately several Nambucca Valley farmers have chosen public rallies or Nambucca Valley Council’s fortnightly meetings to lament the danger posed by reckless use of chemicals on neighbouring intensive blueberry farms and the resultant vapours and spray which can drift across.

“One lady in Eungai contacted me last week to tell me that at 8am on a windy day the neighbouring blueberry farm was spraying and she and other neighbours could smell and taste the chemical in the wind,” Raewyn Macky of community action group Nambucca Environment Network (NEN) told News Of The Area.

“Another person I spoke to said they rang the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to complain about spray drift from a neighbouring farm in Talarm and were told to monitor it for twelve months before expecting any action from the government body.

“Either they (the EPA) don’t care or they are under-resourced and it seems to be up to ordinary people to do their work,” said Ms Macky.

Other local farmers have raised concerns that Meat and Livestock Australia routinely tests beef for prohibited chemicals and they fear that neighbouring paddocks will be affected by the unwanted and unidentified sprays.

Sue Higginson, Greens MP and the party’s spokesperson for agriculture, said the advice from the NSW Farmers Association comes as a timely step in the right direction but doesn’t go far enough.

“If we are serious about the impacts of spray drift on human and environmental health and long term agricultural productivity, we need to take a harder look and approach,” said Ms Higginson.

“There are twelve agricultural chemicals in use in Australia today that have been banned in most other countries due to their known harmful impacts on people and the environment.”

Documents from the EPA that Ms Higginson obtained under parliamentary order in 2022 show that since at least 2020, the community has been complaining to the EPA about the irresponsible use of chemicals resulting in spray drift impacting neighbouring properties, towns and schools.

“Residents have reported mass de-foliations of remnant native vegetation to the EPA as well as specific vegetation dieback across the landscape and on their properties, but the EPA have taken days or weeks to respond and have essentially told residents that there is nothing they can do.”

“After much pressure the EPA has recently implemented a regulatory program including active monitoring of spray drift which is a step in the right direction, but communities and the environments of agricultural districts are still being subjected to a suite of incredibly damaging chemicals in what is essentially a self-regulating industry,” said Ms Higginson.

The EPA regulates pesticide use and spray drift impacts under the Pesticides Act 1999.

“We work with communities, industry and government to ensure that people use pesticides responsibly and to reduce the occurance of spray drift incidents,” the EPA website states.

If you have been affected by spray drift, you should report the incident to the EPA Environment Line on 131 555 as soon as possible.


A North Arm Road blueberry farm with an established vegetated buffer zone, offering some security for neighbours from over-spraying.

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