Berrigan Shire Council has found itself in the spotlight in recent weeks over the way in which it has dealt with a number of matters.
One of those issues is its apparent open door policy when it comes to puppy factories, particularly in the town of Finley.
The catalyst for the spotlight on Berrigan Council was the approval for a development application from one of Victoria’s largest puppy factories Banksia Park Puppies who are seeking to relocate to Finley. Banksia Park is owned and operate by Matt Ham’s and his father Colin, they are being forced interstate by legislation due in Victorian parliament shortly that will honour the mandate the Andrews Government secured from the public during the election campaign to shut down the vile puppy factory industry.
Wixxyleaks had put in a GIPAA request (FOI request) to council on a number of matters surrounding the process of this development application and the council’s fulfilment of its community obligations in relation to notifying the public. Also requested were details surrounding one of the local puppy farms owned by Pam Edwards, who by no coincidence is a relative of Matt Hams.
Berrigan Shire Council responded to my request, and what they sent me was reasonably telling, however what they failed to be able to supply was perhaps more telling.
In relation to the property of Pam Edwards which has been operating for a number of years, Matthew Hansen, Berrigan Shire Councils Director Corporate Services confirmed in writing that there has never been a development application lodged and there has never been a building permit sought for the huge dog sheds she has had constructed on her property to house the dogs she breeds. When I was near her puppy farm from the sound of the barking dogs I would estimate 40-50 dogs are in those sheds, based on other sites I have been to. This information from council is confirmation that Pam Edwards is running what most governments refer to as an “illegal puppy farm”. These are the types of dodgy businesses that have a shocking reputation for inhumane conditions, and for feeding off the public with owners and operators usually paying no tax while we are all forced to, and many operators are also recipients of welfare.
The shutting down of these operations is usually reliant on a council that is proactive and well organised. Unfortunately Berrigan Shire Council for whatever reasons has chosen to allow this illegal operation to not just continue, but to also build two massive sheds for the dogs without even applying for a building permit. They have even tried to tell me Edwards only has a couple of dogs and it is not a business which would imply they are choosing to turn a selective blind eye.
It makes one wonder the state of affairs of Pam Edwards tax if she has been earning an illegal income.
I would suggest if anyone else knows of an illegal puppy farm like the Edwards one on Riverina Hwy Finley NSW, they can be reported to the Australian Tax Department via their online reporting form or they can be called toll free.
Meanwhile, Pams relative Matt Hams has had his DA go through council without an issue.
While council have waved it through many within the community were unaware of another puppy factory moving into the area. Claims were made by many neighbours of the property that they had not received any notification at all from anybody regarding the application.
Council claimed that both they and Banksia Park Puppies had communicated with all of the neighbours and there had not been a single objection. I requested details of communication from both council and Banksia Park as part of my GIPAA request, this was to include any meetings, mailouts, newspaper notices, and notices of a development application at the property itself.
Council sent me the letter linked here that it claimed to have sent out to a grand total of five residents.
I spoke personally with many neighbours, three whom had a property adjoining. Oddly enough all bar one of them had no idea about Banksia Park’s plans. One had heard rumours about the plans but wasn’t sure what to think, he certainly mentioned nothing about any contact regarding it. None of the others had received mail from the council they told me, in fact none had been contacted at all and none were aware of the plans for the property and every single one of them was against the plans.
I guess the letter to these residents must have got lost in the mail?
Despite the GIPAA requesting these details, Berrigan Shire Council was unable to provide any evidence of or details relating to any correspondence at all to residents from Matt Hams or Banksia Park Puppies. Council could also provide no copies of notices in local papers or provide evidence that any had been place. Council were also unable to provide evidence of a notice regarding the application being displayed at the property. Council were also unable to provide any correspondence with Edward River Council on the matter given the property in question borders that council and two neighbouring properties are part of Edward River Council.
Council records also show when the development application first went through council, the address used was that of a nearby town, Tocumwal, not Finley where it was actually located.
News of this controversy has not escaped the local rag which punched out an article entitled “Finley Puppy Farm”. On Wednesday.
The article whilst not naming this site or myself made reference to one of my previous articles on this matter quoting Matt Hams as saying;
‘‘A blogger for instance has recently put up photos online of the existing site in Finley, with photos of old cages belonging to the former dog kennel owners.
‘‘They’re saying that these are what Banksia Park Puppies will be bred in.”
Actually I didn’t say that at all, I said
“The site itself is not fit to house 100 breeding dogs and their puppies.”
However, when I contacted the Southern Riverina News the person who answered the main switch number was none other than the author of the article Sophie Burge.
Upon answering the reception phone Ms Burge was immediately on the defensive when I told her I was contacting about her article.
I asked her about the part of her article where she assured readers;
“Berrigan Shire Council development manager Laurie Stevens said prior to approval, neighbouring properties were contacted about the proposed development, both by council and the applicant.
He said no objections were received.”
I asked her how many of the neighbours she had asked about this claim. Her answer was that she had not contacted a single one and had taken Laurie Stevens at his word. I told her that I had driven for three and a half hours to knock on all those neighbours doors and spoken to residents and when I suggested she maybe should have driven the five minutes from her office to do the same she became quite hostile.
She also told me she hadn’t read my article and had just taken Matt Hams at his word also regarding what was in it.
Matt Hams may just have a vested interest or two, and Matt Hams has time after time proven himself a brazen liar, however based on the level of research she admits to not doing Ms Burge is probably unaware of this. Maybe she should have asked someone at council?
Matt Hams is to the pet industry what Kathy Jackson is to the union movement. Kathy Jackson liked to say everyone else was a thief, while it seems she may have just been the biggest thief the union movement has ever seen. Matt Hams is keen to tell people that everyone else is a puppy farmer and should be shut down, but not him, oh no, he is ethical. Meanwhile his business model based around animal abuse, lies and secrecy keeps churning out mutts branded as “designer” via overbred suffering animals.
Hams has been telling Victorian MP’s and media that the upcoming legislation will put him out of business. While saying that he has found a lazy half million lying around to purchase the Finley property to relocate to. A relocated business is not a closed business.
Hams has also been keen to tell MP’s that there have not been issues with dogs from his puppy factory. What Hams neglects to mention is that the frequent customers who have medical issues with his mutts and have veterinary bills into the thousands of dollars are not assisted by Banksia Park until they have signed a non-disclosure agreement ensuring their silence.
A leaked veterinary bill showing that 24 dogs had needed euthanising in just one month doesn’t make Banksia Park appear like the puppy paradise Matt Hams would like people to think it is.
While I’m sure Banksia Park has been cleaned up now so that the wool can be pulled over visiting media and politicians eyes, the truth behind his business is much darker indeed.
As much as Matt Hams want the upcoming legislation to fail, it will pass. The reason that it will pass is that the public voted for it.
As much as councils like Berrigan Shire think they can be selective with the rules because they are out of sight of the capital and have a lazy local press who always takes their side, there will always be those who speak out and hold them to account.
There is plenty more to come on this yet.Follow @madwixxy