INGHAMS CHICKEN PROCESSING PLANT
(Liverpool) [5.32 p.m.]: I draw to the attention of the House serious problems being experienced by constituents in Hoxton Park who have complained to me about the offensive odour emanating from the Inghams chicken processing plant. One resident of Hoxton Park, Mr Prasad, described the smell as an awful stench. Another resident, Mr Chandra, described the odour as a stench of decaying and decomposing matter. These two residents and others are concerned at the seeming indifference of the operators of the chicken processing plant.
The situation is so serious that there is at least anecdotal evidence that some residents have been forced to sell their homes and leave the area because of the stench. There is a consistency in the complaints that have been made to me in that they all describe the odour being at its worst at about 7.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. Two separate operations seem to be the cause of the problem. There is one odour from the processing facility and the operations surrounding that. There is a separate problem with the chicken sheds. As I understand it, the former of these is a matter for the Environment Protection Authority. The latter is a matter for regulatory control by Liverpool City Council. Following a significant number of complaints to both the EPA and the council, a meeting was held on 27 November last year between representatives of Liverpool City Council, the EPA, local residents and developers. Subsequent events to that are well described in a letter I received from the Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment dated 29 June, as follows:
The Ingham plant holds a pollution control licence issued by the Environment Protection Authority. Conditions requiring certain pollution control equipment on processors can be attached to the licence and are legally binding.
In 1997 the EPA received a number of complaints regarding odours from the Inghams plant at Hoxton Park. As a result of these complaints, the EPA initiated a requirement that the company construct a new wastewater treatment plan. Inghams has installed a $3 million wastewater treatment plant to control odours and improve effluent quality. The EPA’s records indicate that complaints regarding odours from the plant have reduced significantly since the completion of the new treatment plant.
Liverpool City Council, through Mike Ritchie, Corporate Manager Natural Environment, also wrote a letter dated 7 July, part of which stated:
Council has received complaints from residents in the adjacent housing developments concerning the odour. This odour was from both the chicken sheds and operations associated with the processing facility located on the site.
The majority of the complaints relating to the odour were caused by activities associated with the operation of the chicken processing plant. This facility is a scheduled premises and is controlled by the Environment Protection Authority. Accordingly, these matters were referred to the EPA for their perusal.
In this regard upgrading of wastewater facilities have been undertaken within the past twelve to eighteen months. Complaints relating to odours being generated by council regulated facilities on the site, namely the chicken housing sheds, have been investigated . . .
Council has concluded in general that best management practices are being implemented by Inghams.
Thus, council believes at this time that Inghams are taking all practicable means necessary to prevent or minimise air pollution.
The existing use rights of Inghams necessarily require that their medium to long term presence on that site be recognised and respected in council’s planning and decision making.
I have quoted at some length so that the full import of what the letters say can be made clear. The impression given by the authorities is that a number of complaints were made, the problem has now been fixed and the matter is over and done with. Unfortunately, that is not what the residents are now telling me. They assert that the problem has not been resolved. There are two schools of thought amongst the residents. One is that despite all the changes and improvements nothing has improved and the stench is as bad as ever. Another school of thought concedes that the odour has become somewhat better but that it is still an upsetting, offensive stench. It is no surprise that complaints to the EPA have been reduced. A plethora of earlier complaints culminated in the November meeting and new equipment. Residents may well assume that nothing more can now be achieved by complaining to the EPA.
The broader issues here are typical of the problems in new-release areas where there is a conflict between long-established, pre-existing uses and newly established residential use. The simple and frankly simplistic response is to say that because the original user was there for so long the new residents have to like it or lump it. That, on any reasonable assessment, is not a tenable view. Residents were not warned by developers or real estate agents of the potential problems. They purchased properties in good faith, unaware of any difficulty.
Moreover, the plant is subject to the law prohibiting pollution, regardless of how long the plant has been there. The community benefits broadly from the development of new estates in areas such as this. Development further from urban
centres would impose an even greater strain upon public resources. That in turn would place responsibility back on the community as a whole to ensure that new estates are not subject to unreasonable conditions, such as an offensive odour. It is not appropriate or tenable to simply say that because users were there first, new residents cannot complain. Despite the optimism of the EPA and Liverpool City Council, the problem has not been solved; complaints are continuing. I request that both these institutions look again at ways to resolve the problem.
(Blacktown - Minister for the Environment) [5.37 p.m.]: Last year Inghams was required to implement eight pollution reduction programs negotiated by the Environment Protection Authority to improve environmental performance at its plant. Two of these pollution reduction programs related specifically to odour reduction. The first was the installation of a $3 million waste water treatment plant and the subsequent decommissioning of Inghams old anaerobic lagoons. I understand that the second was the implementation of an odour control strategy. These measures have been very successful in reducing odours and community complaints about odours from the Inghams plant. I am advised that during the 12-month period between September 1996 and September 1997 the EPA received approximately 100 odour complaints from residents. However, since the beginning of this year the EPA has received only two complaints, one on 19 January and the other on 22 February. Evidently, subsequently the EPA has received no formal complaints.
I am advised that an EPA officer inspected the Inghams plant approximately eight weeks ago and was satisfied that the plant was complying with its licence. No odours were detected at the time of the inspection. I thank the honourable member for Liverpool for raising the matter. I note his statement that the odours from the plant are often worse after hours. I have asked the EPA to ensure that the premises are inspected at such times. I can appreciate that the honourable member for Liverpool has been given differing advice by constituents on this issue. The Government is keen to ensure that, despite the important role that Inghams plays in both regional and State economies, it continues to perform at a high environmental standard. I undertake to ensure that the EPA investigates the complaints made by the honourable member for Liverpool on behalf of his constituents.