2010 July: $467,000 awarded in Spray Drift Case (Qld). Pesticides: Metsulfuron Methyl, Triclopyr, Picloram

Damages awarded for spray drift case

A southern Queensland cotton farmer has been awarded $467,000 in damages after spray drift killed his crop.

The decision was handed down in the Supreme Court in Brisbane against Meandarra Aerial and Lachlan Hill.

They had applied chemical from an aircraft to kill wattle trees on a property almost 20 kilometres away from Condamine cotton grower Ash Geldard.

“We had some yellowing developing in our cotton that we had never seen before and as time moved on it became more apparent that it was herbicide damage,” Mr Geldard says.

He has also had a swipe at the former DPI, now known as DEEDI, for not doing enough about punishing people who break the rules.

“History has shown that hey have taken virtually no action in Queensland against any breaches of their legislation.

“It sends a pretty ordinary message to the people who do the wrong thing.”

Cotton Australia CEO Adam Kay has shared his concerns at the lack of follow up from state departments.

“We certainly have problems in New South Wales and Queensland with these control of use agencies.

“They seem to have real problems in following through on prosecutions,” he says.

The pilot and owner of the aerial company based in Meandarra has refused an interview with the ABC.

The Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation had not replied to the Country Hour but says it will issue a written statement.


Supreme Court – Trial Division

GEJ & MA Geldard Pty Ltd v DN Mobbs & Ors [2010] QSC 220 (07/2773) Ann Lyons J 23/06/2010

Full-text: QSC10-220.pdf


TORTS – NEGLIGENCE – ESSENTIALS OF ACTION FOR NEGLIGENCE – DUTY OF CARE – REASONABLE FORESEEABILITY OF DAMAGE – Where the plaintiff grows cotton crops on properties 20 kms south of the first defendant’s cattle properties – where the sixth and eighth defendants carried out aerial spraying of herbicides to control wattle trees on the first defendant’s cattle properties in December 2005 – where subsequent to the aerial spraying the plaintiff’s cotton crops began showing adverse symptoms including yellowing, discolouration, deformity and crinkling – where the herbicide sprayed was “off label” – where the weather conditions during the aerial spraying included high winds, low humidity and high temperatures – where the pilots logged significantly different weather conditions to the local weather stations on that day – where varying accounts exist as to the release height of the aerial spraying – where various experts tendered reports as to the possibility of spray drift causing the crop damage – whether an amount of herbicide reached the plaintiff’s properties – whether the herbicide caused damage to the plaintiff’s cotton crops – whether the sixth and eighth defendants could have reasonably foreseen that aerial spraying in the particular circumstances would cause damage to the plaintiff’s crops – whether the sixth and eighth defendants are liable in negligence for the damage caused.