Spray drift court case

14 Jun, 2013 02:00 AM
A recent WA Supreme Court case has been a timely reminder for WA growers to be aware of spray drift.
A recent WA Supreme Court case has been a timely reminder for WA growers to be aware of spray drift.

A LANDMARK court case which involved a WA marron farmer and his neighbour, has served as a timely reminder to broadacre growers to consider the implications of spray drift in the future.

It was alleged Neil, Warren and Eunice Moore's neighbour, Landsdale Pty Ltd (and Quenby Viticultural Services), caused the death of $1.9 million worth of marron stocks at the Moore's Denmoore Marron Farms outside Mt Barker after the vineyard owners applied pesticide spray to grape vines on their property.

A WA Supreme Court spokesperson said it was a lengthy proceeding which was listed in the court's system as being due to wrap up on June 17.

But the case was dropped about three weeks ago after first being filed more than five years ago.

Despite the fact nobody was prosecuted, it was believed to be a landmark case for the WA agricultural industry, according to WAFarmers lawyer Phil Brunner, who last month said he would continue to follow the issue during the upcoming weeks and months despite WAFarmers being uninvolved in the specific matter.

He said the final judgement had the potential to impact on the future legal ramifications of spray drift on broadacre farms throughout the State's grain growing regions so it was important to learn from the case.

Norton Rose partner and dispute resolution lawyer Jenni Hill last week confirmed the matter had been resolved on the basis that the plaintiff's claim was dismissed.

"The plaintiff was ordered to pay $425,000 towards the defendant's costs," Ms Hill said.

"By acknowledging the claim was dismissed the plaintiff has acknowledged what ever losses were experienced were certainly not by the defendant's conduct.

"Evidence against the plaintiff's claim came out in detail throughout the trial.

"Reports that had been carried out by Fisheries officials at the time showed the marron had bacterial septicaemia and that was the cause of the marron's death."

But Ms Hill also said there was an important lesson in the case for WA's broadacre growers.

She said one of the difficulties with spray drift claims would always be the need for evidence to prove chemical residue actually reached which ever commercial product or crop was in question.

But secondly and critically, the analysis of wind records and things of that nature were sometimes difficult to obtain.

"The thing the defendants always felt really strongly about in their case was that a lot of previous successful spray drift cases in the Eastern States were driven by evidence which suggested spray applications had been made at multiple times the label recommendation, using fixed wing aircrafts rather than helicopters and things of that nature," Ms Hill said.

"There was just no evidence or basis to an allegation that the defendants hadn't operated within label recommendations or anything of that nature."

There had also been a couple of successful spray drift claims in the Eastern States in recent years.

"Detailed factual analysis is quite critical to these types of claims," Ms Hill said.

"The other hard thing about these types of allegations is they take a long time to go through the system."

It was alleged an initial spray drift incident took place between December 12, 2002 and February 26, 2003 which contaminated 36 of the Moore's marron ponds and caused business losses totalling $3.1m.

Those alleged losses were said to consist of $1.6m for the lost marron stock, $500,000 for the cost of pond rehabilitation and $1m from loss of future sales for a period of seven years.

Since that time it was again alleged more vineyard spraying between October 13, 2004 and March 2, 2005 caused further losses amounting to $4.8m.

The alleged losses are said to consist of $300,000 for lost marron stock, $500,000 for the cost of pond rehabilitation and $4m from loss of future sales for a period of five to seven years.

There were 46 hearings involved in the case.

Farm Weekly also spoke to Warren Moore but he was unable to make a comment due to legal reasons.

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Common sense Lindfield
14/06/2013 9:39:50 AM, on The Land

To test the theory I agree that detailed factual analysis is quite critical. Check the farm records for what pesticides were used and check toxicological profile to identify main hazards. Also speak to the chemical manufacturer - they have a lot of chemical and environmental data. Pesticide residues in meat, water, soil etc are easy to test at ppm or even ppb levels at a fraction of the costs mentioned in this article. Such information would add weight to any argument. 46 hearings - sounds like only the lawyers won here! Shame, I love marron. Yum.
14/06/2013 10:54:58 PM, on Farm Weekly

And what caused the bacterial septicaemia? Stress response from spray drift?
farmer jones
21/06/2013 8:17:19 PM, on The Land

I have a neighbour who despite my requests continues to spray his crops which are only 80m from my house with the wind carrying it well over. I can prove no loss to crops or livestock yet I breath in and have my tank water potentially contaminated. Hard for me or any one to prove a case in 20 or 30 years.


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