symposium on member issues with DA conditions
Rod Cheetham (B.Ed. Env. Sci) Principal Consultant for Fisheries & Wildlife Developments
Symposium on issues with Development Approval conditions, specifically the need for a permit under DES, (Department of Environment and Science) legislation.
Fracas involving the interpretation of the various requirements for aquaculture permits - around January 2019 with the Department of Environment and Science (DES)
In Queensland you require a Development Approval for aquaculture. This is often issued through your local Council, however the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries usually have a big part in the assessment of these applications. Occasionally others may have input – such as the Department of Environment and Science (Formerly the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection).
It turned out that around January 2019 the Department of Environment and Science (DES) happened to notice a number of aquaculture pursuits and businesses taking place in the Childers area. As such they carried out an inspection of one farm. And it was at this point the farmers interpretation ended up a bit different to the inspectors. A response to their subsequent “please explain” request was prepared.
Now it is important to understand that under the DES legislation, aquaculture is listed as an Environmentally Relevant Activity (ERA). If you need to look it up you can find it in Section 426 (1) of the Environment Protection Act 1994. In short, nobody can undertake an Environmentally Relevant Activity (in this case – aquaculture) unless they hold a permit or are exempt from being required to hold a permit. In the EPA Act 1994, the Environment Protection Regulations 2008 where aquaculture is listed under the EP Regulations 2008 as (1) “Aquaculture (the relevant activity) consists of cultivating or holding marine or freshwater organisms in an enclosure on land or in waters.” This has been the case for many years now, and usually those of you involved with freshwater aquaculture do not need to worry. This is because of a really handy exemption. Specifically if your freshwater aquaculture facility can maintain a zero discharge of production waters back into the environment (such as a waterway. Creek or river) - then despite being an Environmentally Relevant Activity, freshwater producers have been exempt from requiring a permit under DES legislation.
The really important part of all this is to be able to maintain and prove zero discharge. If you are able to do this, you should have nothing to be worried about concerning DES inspectors. The best and easiest way of doing this is to have a Farm Management Plan in place and operating. Farm records are essential as well. This provides all important evidence should you or your farm be required to “please explain.” The Farm Management Plan will also set down how pond wastes are managed – such as irrigation of any excess waters onto landbased crops, storage and rehabilitation of pond water, but perhaps even more importantly a pond management system that includes a drying process to revitalise used ponds and prepare them for future filling and stocking. Pond walls and bunds should also be in better than excellent condition. References: Section 426 (1) of the Environment Protection Act 1994; Environment Protection Regulations 2008; John Dexter, Department Agriculture & Fisheries.
This symposium will go through the history of of this case, and how things could go very wrong, but with the help of the AAQ, and our professional consultant, major conflict was avoided.