1988 March: King Lake Farms Quaratined. Pesticide: Dieldrin.

Wednesday, 30th March 1988 The Age p18

Farmers Decide On Legal Action Over Land Contamination (Gayle Austen)

Forty-nine of the Victorian farmers whose properties are contaminated with the pesticide dieldrin will proceed with legal action against the State Government.

The farmers, beef producers from the Bellarine, Kinglake and Gembrook areas, decided this week that they could not wait any longer for the Minister for Agriculture, Mr Walker, to offer satisfactory compensation.

The State Government has consistently refused to provide compensation, despite recent evidence that the Department of Agriculture, which was recommending dieldrin for agricultural use until last year, had known about the contamination dangers of the pesticide since 1971.

Mr Walker has offered to buy contaminated cattle for 80 per cent of their value, but producers, facing long-term soil contamination, are dissatisfied and say they will press ahead with legal action.

“Generally, farmers are still very unhappy with what the minister has offered,”said a spokesman for the farmers, Mr Julian Dyer. “He can come up with as many short-term palliatives as he likes, but nobody at this stage knows what effect this will have on the value of property in the long-term…

“The whole thing’s a disaster. It’s terribly unfortunate that things like this have to go as far as they have.” Mr Dyer said there woule be no turning back from the action now, even if Mr Walker came up with a more acceptable offer.

He said he believed the dieldrin problem would continue to get worse as departmental officers turned their attention to the many hobby farms in Gembrook and on the Bellarine Peninsula. About 220 Victorian farms are under quarantine or scrutiny, and the figure would probably blow out to about 500, Mr Dyer said.

The president of the Victorian Farmers Federation’s pastoral group, Mr Bill Bodman, agreed yesterday that farmers had to be concerned about the long-term impact of pesticide contamination, beyond the immediate problem of affected cattle.