A recent meeting of SAFEMEAT representatives considered the question of legal implications for producers operating in or near CSG gas fields.
In his response to Beef Central’s questions, SAFEMEAT chair Ross Keane said the general principles that apply are as follows:
1. As members of LPA, producers are responsible for undertaking a risk assessment to ensure they are aware of any potential areas of contamination, and take appropriate management steps to avoid the risks.
2. Recent reports in relation to CSG (of the Santos pond leakage near Narrabri) provide no evidence:
a) of a food safety risk
b) that livestock have been exposed to contaminants resulting in food safety concerns
3. In the event that any concerns are raised by environment protection agencies, or state agriculture departments, Safemeat has a range of measures which it could initiate to monitor livestock which may have been exposed to such risks (measures include traceability systems, residue monitoring programs and assignment of statuses).
4. The NVD is underpinned by Livestock Production Assurance (LPA). The NVD is used to identify the origins of stock and obtain declarations from producers about a range of issues relating to animal treatments, feedstuffs and the environment which are designed to ensure consumer interests are protected.
5. This then loops back to Point 1 above.
Mr Keane also offered the following advice:
“If the producer is concerned over risk of contamination of water, the producer should raise the matter with the State mining regulator and requesting them to investigate. The risks should have been managed as part of the approval process, but the State can ask the company to rectify if the measures are inadequate.
“If a contamination incident occurs the mining regulator should be made aware and asked to take a water sample. If there is an issue of residue concern, the mining regulator should then pass it on to State agriculture department for decision on any steps needed to manage it. This may include advice on what to disclose on the NVD.
“As above, it is an LPA requirement to have a property risk assessment and, if circumstances change, it is the producer’s responsibility to update the property risk assessment and exclude stock from risk areas if necessary.
“Producers should seek independent legal advice if they wish to pursue damages for any contamination.”