The Friendlyjordies team have been provided documents detailing correspondence between the New South Wales Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and Narromine community members with regards to reports of defoliation due to pesticides in the Narromine region.
The Friendlyjordies team have been provided documents detailing correspondence between the NSW EPA and the Narromine community regarding reports of defoliation.
One exchange, between the NSW EPA’s Duncan McGregor and a censored community member dated to the 25th of June 2020, appears to be a response to a letter of complaint regarding the initial observations of defoliation due to pesticides.
In the exchange, Mr. McGregor notes that the original report to the EPA was received two weeks after the initial incident of pesticide spraying which was believed to have caused damage. Mr. McGregor stated that as a result there would be “little value” in inspecting the damaged trees as they would no longer be able sample pesticide residue on the plants.
Mr. McGregor continued stating that this was one reason why the EPA had targeted sampling intended for the following season. Others included that the original report was received during COVID-19 travel restrictions and so EPA staff were only instructed to travel for “essential purposes such as emergency incidents.”
Mr. McGregor also discusses the difficulty in building a case to a high enough standard of proof when it comes to pesticide residue:
“Other evidence is collected during investigations and is used to build a case to the appropriate standard of proof. It is very difficult to prove any pesticide offence to a criminal standard. To successfully investigate pesticide incidents requires specific details, including the paddocks sprayed, equipment used, suspected pesticide, who was conducting the spraying and wind directions.”
According to further exchanges, Mr. McGregor then attended a face-to-face meeting with Narromine community members, including those of the Community Overspray Group (COG), affected by the alleged sprays on the 3rd of July 2020. Mr. McGregor was reportedly joined by another EPA officer, Josh Loxley.
At this meeting, the community stressed that immediate action was required regarding the defoliation and requested the matter be escalated to more senior figures within the EPA so it could be engaged with appropriately.
In a letter sent by a representative of the COG to Mr. McGregor and the EPA, they voiced their frustration at the lack of an adequate response:
“Our groups will be expecting a comprehensive response from the EPA that collects evidence still readily available in the landscape. Our meeting with you and staff reinforced that up to this point there has not been an adequate response by the EPA to notifications as the staff have lacked skills in vegetation identification or chemical knowledge and awareness. We are not seeking more assurances at this stage for field plans into next year as the immediate need is to comprehensively ascertain the extent and nature of observable damage across all of the Cotton growing areas within NSW.”