Local blueberry industry in national news

In a bid to reduce fertiliser pollution entering the oldest New South Wales marine park, Australia’s biggest blueberry farming region has trialed an emerging innovation that was pioneered to protect Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef. 

By Claudia Jambor

Key points:

In recent years, researchers found high amounts of nitrogen from fertilisers in Coffs Coast waterways, particularly in the Hearnes Lake catchment, where most horticulture farming occurs.

Southern Cross University PhD candidate Shane White and his team estimated the catchment’s nitrogen levels were six times higher than the Australian east coast average.

  • Water quality studies across the region have been above guidelines set out by the Australian and New Zealand Environment Conservation Council 
  • Bioreactor trials on the Coffs Coast are showing promising results and better managing fertiliser runoff into waterways and marine parks
  • Researchers hope to conduct further trials

For the full ABC article go to; https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-09-26/researchers-and-farmers-tackle-farm-run-off-on-coffs-coast/100420380

Landline focuses on blueberry farming on the Coffs Coast

Also an ABC Landline TV program yesterday (26 September) lead with a feature on some of the issues featured above. It can be viewed via ABC iView here; https://iview.abc.net.au/video/RF2004Q033S00

Key points highlighted in this TV programme. Blueberry farming on the Coffs Coast has caused;

  • Highest Nitrate levels in Australia, 50 times higher than recommended.
  • Nitrogenous oxide in all our waterways one of highest pollution statistics in the world comparable to China and India.
  • High fertilizer run off effects of fertilizer pollution will be with us for 100 years.
  • ‘Polluting Solitary Island Marine Park and local sea food in local sea and water ways’ .


Lead photo: From ABC article linked first above

2 thoughts on “Local blueberry industry in national news

  1. What a disgusting disgrace the CCC is in my view. How has this been allowed to happen in such a once was beautiful place? Who is accountable for the toxic impact? I wont be purchasing any more blueberries.

  2. Talk about closing the stable door,after the horse has bolted, its so Australian.
    It is reminiscent of our submarine debacle.The blueberry industry started with little regulation over ten years ago. It was gold rush/cowboy territory. The bizarre anomaly that blueberry farms needed no DA from council aided in this industry.
    The Bellingen mayor brought this to public attention years ago, but of course nothing was done what with it being the safe National Party seat of Cowper. DAs are not required for agricultural pursuits.T he old adage ‘when a NP farmer looks you in the eye, you can trust’ him applies here.
    Indiscriminate clearing of native vegetation,illegal dams and unregulated pumping from water streams. Landowners adjoining these farms have voiced concerns for years , it fell on cloth eared Govt public servants. The deplorable lack of guidelines for this industry falls on the shoulders of the CHCC, Local Land Services and NRAR the water dept. Of course the usual buck passing/blame game happened with our ridiculous local, state and federal laws that just cripple this country with inaction.
    Instead of being proactive at the beginning of this industry with proper guidelines, they turn up ten years later like the marines have landed! Most of the damage has been done. At the beginning of this boom, strict guidelines should have been put in place and monitored. Mandatory buffer zones of native vegetation between farms and watercourses should have been insisted on so as to reduce nitrate release. And at the landowners cost not taxpayers.
    Imagine the Nats agreeing to that, its not a gun club or swimming pool?
    Next regulation of water supply to the farms especially in relation to pumping from water streams,bores and approved dams. Also monitoring of fertiliser/pesticide usage on the farms.
    The only issue addressed by the Landline program was excessive nitrogen release to water streams,ten years after the industry started.
    Issues not addressed were water supply, use of pesticides and contamination. In particular fungicides and insecticides. A number of them have been banned in Europe for years including Confidor which is devastating to bees. Nematodes have presented huge problems, I can’t imagine the toxic insecticides used to control these pests. Many growers gave up and planted blueberries in “grow”bags to avoid nematodes.
    The European growers have dealt with these issues for years, creating holding dams lined with dam liners to prevent leaching of nitrates into water streams. This water is then recycled back into the hothouse so saving fertiliser usage as well as water.
    The blueberry industry here has all the hallmarks of the banana industry on the Coffs Coast in the 70s and 80s. Inappropriate land clearing and the use of toxic chemicals. The taxpayers will foot the bill like they have with contaminated banana farms with organo-phosphates making them inhabitable. Even using taxpayers dollars to re-vegetate steep cleared old banana farms that they cleared years ago.
    The lesson we should learn is to regulate new industries from the beginning working with the farmer from the start in a conciliatory manner with strict adherence to good practice. Government departments need to really lift their game, they have been asleep at the wheel, comfortably numb.

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