A southeast Queensland farmer is facing thousands of dollars in clean-up costs after criminals dumped more than 1000 tyres on her property.
Beenleigh area cane and cattle farmer Suzie Burow-Pearce set out for work on February 9 when she was confronted by a 50m long pile of car and 4WD tyres.
"It seems to be the easy way out for people to just dump their rubbish on people's farms and they think it's no longer their problem, but it becomes our problem and it's very frustrating," Mrs Burow-Pearce said.
The farmer, who runs the property with her husband, parents, uncle and cousin, thinks the perpetrator is possibly a company that collects old tyres from dealers, and instead of recycling them, dumps them in isolated areas and pockets the extra cash.
"They looked like they were just picked up from a tyre place and dumped because they were clean," Mrs Burow-Pearce said.
The trespassers went to great lengths to cover up their crime, going unnoticed by the farmers and their neighbours.
"They've come in and actually reversed a couple hundred metres down the track and dumped them on the end of the track on our property."
Mrs Burow-Pearce has been quoted between $7000 and $22,000 to remove approximately 1300 tyres, and because they're on private property, her family is left to foot the bill.
"The council said if they would have been dumped on the road, they would have to remove them, but because it's on private land, it's the owner's problem," she said.
The mountain of tyres remains more than a month later, blocking access to parts of her farm and her neighbours' as she assess her options.
It's not the first time the farm has been used as a dumping ground.
"We've had smaller dumpings - 10 to 20 tyres - but nothing on this scale," she said.
"Other growers in the district have had a large amount of tyres dumped on their property as well.
"It is a big problem and I think it's only going to get worse."
The police, council, and the Department of Environment and Science have launched investigations, but Mrs Burow-Pearce isn't hopeful justice will be served.
"Hopefully they do come up with whoever has dumped it and they get prosecuted for it, but that's a long shot."
Fines for illegally dumping waste range from $2205 to $10,338, with the potential for much higher penalties for matters prosecuted in court.
The cost of managing litter and illegal dumping to Queensland councils has been estimated at $28 million in the 2019-2020 financial year.
However, this reporting does not typically include the wastes illegally deposited on private land.
Peak body Canegrowers' Rocky Point division has helped her apply for a state government grant to clean up the mess.
She finds out this month if she's been successful.
"We didn't know what to do - it was just left to us. Thank goodness that grant was available, but what happens now that grant's not available for anyone else? It's finished.
"If we don't get this grant, it's left to us unfortunately."
Funding has now closed for the latest round of the state government's Illegal Dumping Grant Program.
Round one of the Local Government Illegal Dumping Partnerships Program provided $3.6 million in funding to 27 local governments, allowing councils to employ 31 illegal dumping compliance officers for 12 months and included four joint local government projects.
Round 2A of the partnerships program totalled $2.9 million, while the subsequent Local Government Illegal Dumping Hotspot Grants Program provided $1.35 million.
In February, Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said councils funded under the first round of grants issued more than 850 fines totalling $1.3 million.
"By working together, we are sending a strong message to offenders that illegal dumping will not be tolerated," Ms Scanlon said.
Council applications for round 2B of the program, worth $2 million, will open later this year.
Canegrowers CEO Dan Galligan said anecdotal feedback pointed to high local dump fees as a possible reason for the practice in some regions.
"I will be seeking discussions with the Local Government Association of Queensland to better understand how this problem can be stopped," Mr Galligan said.
"This situation highlighted the struggle growers across the state face when trying to get help with this unwelcome problem - councils often state they have no power or responsibility and police seem unable to assist in tracking down culprits."
The closest facility to Mrs Burow-Pearce, Stapylton Waste and Recycling Centre, is run by Gold Coast City Council and charges $5.60 per car tyre and $8.46 per light truck tyre.
In December 2021, Australia banned the export of whole used tyres - only allowing export for retreading, second-hand use, or if they're shredded.
Four months before the ban, industry-funded stewardship group Tyre Stewardship Australia put a call out to farmers to be vigilant.
"There is a possibility that unused or segregated farmland may be used to illegally dump or stockpile waste tyres by tyre collectors who cannot secure viable markets or fall short of meeting the necessary requirements to obtain an export licence," it said in a statement.
According to TSA, Australia generates 450,000 tonnes of end of life tyres each year, of which 72 per cent is recovered for productive outcomes, while the remainder is mostly disposed in licenced landfills or buried on-site where permitted, dumped or stockpiled.
"Left unsupervised, the mismanagement of EOLT can lead to stockpiles that may lead to fire or other environmental and human health concerns," the TSA said.
"Not to mention the cost burden to clean up these sites is distressing for all involved, including farmers and landowners who can bear the cost of clean-up and possible fines from the regulator."
In 2013, the Newman government deleted 20 environmentally relevant activity thresholds in its drive to reduce regulation and green tape by 20 per cent.
"Although businesses conducting these activities will no longer need to obtain an environmental approval, they must still uphold environmental standards," Environment Minister Andrew Powell said.
"Industry will be able to take greater responsibility for its environmental performance, and the department will be consistent in taking prompt, strong action against operators who choose not to comply with these standards."
In 2015, Palaszczuk government environment minister at the time, Steven Miles, blamed his predecessors' green tape cuts for increasing environmental problems.
"The previous LNP government de-regulated tyre storage, leading to a re-emergence of tyre stockpiling and a reduction in the flow of waste tyres into the Queensland market," Mr Miles said.
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