May 4, 2005

Conservationists and local residents representing Friends of the Earth, Otway Environment Council and Friends of Gippsland Bush today called on the State Government to immediately ban aerial spraying of pesticides in domestic water supply catchments. Conservationists are also calling on the State Government to release all information pertaining to chemical use within catchments and to eventually ban aerial spraying in catchments that are not domestic water supplies.

“Tree plantations are the major source of aerial spraying in the Gellibrand River catchment of the Otway Ranges", said Otway Environment Council spokesperson Fiona Nelson.

"There are several thousand hectares of pine plantations in the Gellibrand River catchment which supplies drinking water to over 50,000 people in the States South West. It is an outrageous proposition that plantation companies are willing to risk people's health by aerially spraying chemicals. We also have concerns about water pollution and potential impacts of spray drift” Ms Nelson said.

Friends of the Earth spokesperson Anthony Amis added; “Herbicides are used for weed control in plantations and farmlands. It is absurd that plantation and agricultural companies are allowed to spray in domestic water supply catchments. The risk of pollution to water and air cannot be discounted. The public has no opportunity to oppose spraying or to safeguard their water supplies from possible contamination”.

“The public has a right to know what is being sprayed, in what volume and where the spraying is occurring. They also have a right to know if pesticides are entering their waterways. Recent events in Tasmania reveal that water pollution can and does occur from spraying plantations. Our organisation also has concerns about possible effects of spray drift and we have concerns that the rapidly expanding bluegum industry will use large volumes of aerially applied insecticides in the near future".

"In February 2005 the Australian Medical Association stated that independent monitoring needs to occur in regards to environment and human health impacts of agricultural and industrial activities in water catchments. Our organisation agrees with this assessment” said Mr Amis.

Friends of Gippsland Bush spokesperson Susie Zent said, “As a victim of over exposure to chemicals, I fully support calls for bans on aerial spraying of tree plantations. However my group would also like to see the ban include all catchments where people source their drinking water.
My catchment is not a designated water supply catchment, however it is still a source for domestic and stock use. Aerial spraying in the northern Strzelecki catchments has the potential to impact on the Gippsland Lakes and spraying on the Strzelecki southern slopes has the
potential to impact on Nooramunga Marine Reserve. Risks to this Marine Park cannot be discounted”.

For further information call:

Anthony Amis 9419 8700,
Fiona Nelson 52 37 7345 and
Susie Zent 51691588.