This really, really, pisses me off. It stinks, and the stench isn’t coming from the animals. WUWT’s call to action and generous readers have helped raise over $30,000 to keep a roof over the head of the Thompson children. Now we find that only 21 complaints are the sum of the issue.
Jo Nova writes:
Dear Mr Barnett, (Premier of Western Australia)
Please help the Thompsons in Narrogin and intervene to delay the administrators.
The Thompson’s followed every rule, broke no law, have no outstanding infringement notices, but the plans and rules kept changing. After they had put their money and hearts on the table the DEC added conditions that no one could meet, dangling them by a thread month after month as the Thompsons complied but the debts piled up. They passed all the tests, have local support, but they are being driven to bankruptcy by the Department of Environment and Conservation of WA.
People overseas are shocked at what can happen to honest hardworking entrepreneurs who come to WA. It’s sending a dreadful message of sovereign risk to the world. The receivers are just days away from making this injustice very hard to put right.
Federal politicians are standing up for West Australians, but not our state government?
In the last week hundreds of thousands of people all over the world have read their story. Hundreds of people have donated and in just a few days $30,000 US dollars has been given to help their children. The word is that tomorrow (Wednesday) one or two federal politicians are meeting with Cameron Clyne, CEO of NAB to try to solve this. Things are dire. The administrators are visiting the house today. A family with four children face eviction and loss of their life savings.
A good place to start: 1. Tyranny: How to destroy a business with environmental red tape
Thank you for your immediate urgent attention and help to stop this train wreck. I applaud the way you stood up for WA against the Federal Health take over.
But one local family desperately needs you, and they have a growing band of thousands of supporters.
The overseas site Watts Up With That gets 100,000 hits a day and has covered this three times in the last week.
Please ask if you need any more details.
UPDATE : DEC decisions against the Thompsons were based on only 21 complaints — they ignored community support.
This family is being destroyed by a few complainants (with a lot of help from the DEC), all of the complainants moved to a rural area, near to a piggery, but now complain that they don’t like the smell. Some of those who complain even moved in after the Thompson’s Beef feedlot was set up. Some of those who complain have also applied to rezone their land so they can subdivide.
Thompsons Part 7: Welcome to Investment Hell
• 900 people signed a petition in their support (that was back in 2007 when they were running with 10,000 cattle).
• People give Matt $50 notes in the street and tell him to keep fighting.
• The local shire has written in support urging the DEC to allow them to run the full 14,490 capacity they have works approval for.
• Barry Carbon who wrote the 1986 EPA legislation chaired a local committee and also supports them and agrees they should have permission to run.
• Their two closest neighbours want them to stay and increase their cattle holdings up to the original design.
• 6000 recordings of smells taken in the town show the odours are not unusual or a problem. Most days no one in town can smell anything.
• We have raised $30,000 around the world in a week to support their children. Many people in the US are appalled at what’s happened to them. They are asking why Australians would do this.
The Thompson’s followed every rule, broke no law, have no outstanding infringement notices, but the plans and rules kept changing.
- The Thompsons spent a year getting Works Approval from the Department of Environment and Conservation in WA (a year!) to run a feedlot 4.5 km from Narrogin for up to 14,490 cattle.
- They invested all their money and time, and complied with every request.
- They gradually built the farm up to 10,000 head, by 2007, and then applied to increase it to near 15,000.
- But suddenly in March 2008, they were cut back to 6,000, after they had paid to build the farm to carry 15,000, and locked themselves into the contracts for feed and water.
- They appealed immediately. The appeal for their 2 year license took 14 months. When it came through for them, there was only 9 months left. The banks won’t loan The Thompsons the money on a license that short, and the DEC had written in clauses effectively saying that the farm would lose it’s license if any one person complained about the smell. So if a few people don’t like the Thompsons all they have to do is ring and complain and the farm will be shut down based solely on their opinion and no evidence. We don’t convict people in court based on something so insubstantial. Yet we’ll ruin a family. The Thompsons wanted the DEC to set emissions limits that could be measured. The department refused to.
Some other beef farms don’t need licenses in WA — even large ones – they are registered, but not subject to licensing. The Thompsons were told originally they wouldn’t need licenses either. But then the DEC changed it’s mind, and said they’d have to because they were within 100m of a watercourse. You can go to their farm (we have photos I can send you) and film the so-called watercourses and mock the DEC. The watercourses are flat paddocks, with no banks, nor beds, nor flowing water. Even in a 100 year storm any run-off would eventually wash into distant salt pans, threaten no birds, no fish, and cause no algal bloom. This is not about the environment.
Is there a vendetta by some green elements of the DEC against the Thompsons?
What has the world come to when people think we can move to farm land and then shut down the farms, even when they are run with world’s best practice measures?
This sends a dreadful message to the world. “Don’t invest in WA because the government can’t be trusted to keep their side of the deal”. The Thompsons had an agreement to run a farm of 14,490 cattle, as long as they stuck to the rule book. They did, but the government won’t let them have more than 6000 cattle now, and the banks won’t loan them money to run because they know the license can be withdrawn without warning.
I have documented all this on my website. Two federal politicians are taking up the cause in Parliament.
I am ashamed of our government and the mental torture it has put these good honest people through.
Are we a country run by rule of law where the law applies equally to everyone?
The Thompsons are under seige, trapped in their farm for fear the administrators will take things away if they leave their home.
If you’d like to help the Thompson’s, please go to this link to read over sample letters you can send in support.
To our State Government
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Premier.Barnett@dpc.wa.gov.au, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Minister.Castrilli@dpc.wa.gov.au, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Minister.Faragher@dpc.wa.gov.au, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
From: James Doogue
Subject: Matt and Janet Thompson – Feed lot Narrogin WA
Dear Members of the Coalition Government in WA,
No doubt you are aware of the case of Matt and Janet Thompson who have had their lives turned upside down by bureaucratic red tape and obstructionism in trying to develop a successful feed lot business. This project was given the green light and was planned and built on the basis of approvals received. Since then the goal posts have been continuously moves, ostensibly on the basis of environmental concerns and complaints from a small group of people. The feed lot is some 4 kilometres from town and next to a very large piggery, and is in a rural area yet most of the issues which have been raised are related to odours. Any greenhouse gas concerns raised are mischievous because if these cattle are not producing GHG’s at this feed-lot they will produce them else where. Stopping this project from operating will not reduce net GHG’s in this state.
At a time when country populations are declining because there are no local jobs, it should be a priority to support long term jobs in country areas. The vast majority of the vocal community support the feed lot. The State Government needs to take up the cause of this business immediately.
There are five steps I believe the state government of WA should take immediately:
- Firstly suspend any State charges being levied on this business for unused allocations of water.
- Refund payments for unused water allocations made while the bureaucrats have denied this business to operate at it’s originally approved level of production.
- Ask the local government to refund rates and other charges paid during this period the Thompson’s have been forced to operate at a loss.
- Step in and approve the feed lot operation and original specifications and with a long term licence grant to allow these people to earn a living and reduce debt.
- Consider an ex gratia compensation payment to the Thompson’s for the unnecessary red tape, delays and interference and damage the government bureaucrat have caused.
If you are not familiar with the story then I direct you to:
a) A summary of the story.
b) All related links and information (including evidence, maps and graphs).
c) A review of complaints show activist motivations and how limited the opposition really is.
I hope you will do what you can to help this family and a potentially beneficial business.
I ask WUWT readers to help elevate this and make media aware. So far, dead silence from MSM. This could happen to any family farm the way regulations are being hurled at agriculture these days. Make your voice known.
UPDATE: It was brought up in Australian Parliament, Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (6:54 PM) —I rise tonight to speak about the plight of a family on the cusp of losing everything they have worked for. Matt and Janet Thompson came to Australia from the United States in 2001. They had expertise in cattle farming and they applied their life savings to establishing a feedlot in Narrogin in Western Australia. It took a year for them to receive approval from the Department of Environment and Conservation for that feedlot, which is nearly five kilometres from Narrogin. Approval was given for the construction of a feedlot to house up to 15,000 cattle—or slightly less than 15,000 cattle. They invested their time and their money and they are at risk of losing it all.
I am advised the Thompson family have broken no law, they have no outstanding environmental infringements, they have done everything asked of them by government, they are popular in their local community and nearby towns, and yet they still face ruin. They run a profitable business—or they ran a profitable business. But an over-officious and what would appear to be an overzealous government bureaucracy has cut the profitability of their business and their ability to access any capital.
We go back: the Thompsons applied for construction approval for a feedlot. They received it and they gradually built their farm up to house more than 10,000 head of cattle by 2007. By all reports it was a very successful business. By all reports they were turning away business because people wanted to tap into their expertise. So they applied to further increase their licence to house the maximum of 15,000 cattle. And this is where the problem came in. They were advised to apply for their licence, which they did, and it took a full 11 months for it to be approved. But the unsettling case is that in 2007 the department started to make further inquiries into the feedlot operations because of complaints about the smell. What I neglected to mention before is that this feedlot is located next to a piggery. The piggery has been in operation for some decades in Narrogin, and apparently in the town some people have been complaining about the smell. They have not been complaining about the piggery smell; they have been complaining about the feedlot smell. I am not quite sure how you determine the smell of a pig versus the smell of a cow when they are located next to each other, but somehow the department has concluded that it is the feedlot that smells.
The end result of this is that rather than continue their licence for 10,000 head of cattle which the Thompson family had invested in—they had entered into contracts for feed and water for those cattle—the licence was cut to 6,000 for the Thompsons’ feedlot operation. They could not sustain that. They could not sustain their operations and fulfil their contractual operations with only 6,000 head of cattle. Everything, all the capital they had invested—some $10 million in input costs in the previous year—had come to nowt because this licence was cut unilaterally.
Even the department, in a meeting with the Thompson family, acknowledged that there are procedures and processes that need to be gone through in order to cut people’s licences. And in a meeting on 15 December 2009 a department official said: ‘This is true. The Thompsons have not been treated in a fair and proper manner by the department. There was no process.’ So there was no appropriate process applied by the government department. There has been no law broken by the Thompson family, and yet they still stand on the cusp of losing everything simply because the department decided to change the conditions of their licence.
In the department’s defence, whatever departmental defence I can mount for them, they did, after some 15 months of stalling, give the Thompson family the ability to have 10,000 head of cattle on their property once again. The difficulty was that the licence was due to expire only months after it had been approved and no bank would lend or advance capital, on the assumption that all licences were in such short-term supply and that there could be a reduction or a change in licence conditions without notice, without due process, at the whim of the department. So the Thompsons have not been able to access the capital necessary to sustain their operations.
Today the Thompson family have administrators at their gates trying to enter their property because they cannot continue their operations, which were approved in the initial instance. The difficulties come because the department has also said that if one complaint about smell is received then the licence can be removed and they will have to reduce the number of cattle on their property again. Primary production business cannot continue to operate like this. When people come to this country, become Australian citizens, raise their families, invest their money, break no laws and establish profitable businesses, why is it that government departments can shut them down without due process?
There are other alarming aspects to the Thompsons’ case. In 2008 they hired attorneys in Perth because they did not think they were going to get a positive outcome from the Department of Environment and Conservation. After the attorneys got up to speed with the case, the solicitor and barrister recommended they meet with a gentleman who was an environmental attorney skilled in property matters such as this, Dr Schoombee. The Thompsons met with Dr Schoombee, who advised them that they had no legal standing for the approval of the original feedlot and that they should apologise to the Department of Environment and Conservation for their initial development. In his advice, which took 40 minutes, Dr Schoombee recommended that he should be continually retained to meet with the department and smooth things over.
By the Thompsons’ account, for the original 40-minute consultation they were charged $4,000—at $100 a minute it is not bad money if you can get it. But people can charge what they like and give the advice that they like as long as it is competent and impartial. What is disturbing is that Dr Schoombee is the convenor of an organisation called the Environmental Defender’s Office. The Environmental Defender’s Office is a non-government organisation, but it is actually funded by government and it advises and teaches a small group of complainants how to file writs and appeals and target businesses or practices with regard to environmental matters. This is all a matter of fact which the Thompsons have put on the record, I believe, at a Western Australian parliamentary inquiry hearing. The fact is that Dr Schoombee is a convenor of the EDO and on its website the EDO lists ‘the fight against Narrogin Beef Producers’, which is the Thompsons’ business, as a major accomplishment in 2008. Dr Schoombee won lawyer of the year, partly for his work with the Environmental Defender’s Office.
I would suggest that something smells in Narrogin, but I do not think it is the Thompsons’ feedlot. Something smells when people come here, invest their money and seek unbiased advice and then find that government departments are running roughshod over people who have not broken any law and have complied with all the environmental requirements made of them and find that individuals who are advising these people on how to deal with their problems are also running organisations which specialise in advising people on how to mount such spurious complaints. Something does smell in Narrogin. Having now raised it in this place, I feel it might be too late for the Thompsons. But there is a lesson for all Australians: we cannot allow government bureaucrats and departments to ride roughshod over common sense and common decency. We cannot allow government to become unruly and unwieldy in its restraint of decent businesses. To do so would send a very poor message, not only to people intent on building up their own investments in Australia but to people who are interested in investing here from overseas, like the Thompsons.
I raise this issue not because I think it can make a great deal of difference to the Thompson family. It may be too late—though I hope it is not. I hope that they can retain their farm and that the people of Narrogin, who have already pledged a great deal of support, will be able to rise up and ensure that this previously successful business can continue to operate. But a point that I think we all need to be aware of is that the way government officials or people in public office respond to constituents is absolutely important. The Thompsons’ case needs to be aired publicly; a number of people are trying to do so. I stand with them and wish Janet and Matt Thompson and their family a successful outcome.