Eye in the sky sees ef­flu­ent lessen

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

HE­LI­COPTER mon­i­tor­ing has shown dairy farm com­pli­ance with re­gional ef­flu­ent man­age­ment rules is im­prov­ing sig­nif­i­cantly so far this sea­son, new fig­ures from En­vi­ron­ment Waikato show.

Ef­flu­ent man­age­ment prac­tices that con­tra­vene the rules can lead to ex­ces­sive lev­els of nu­tri­ents and bac­te­ria get­ting into wa­ter­ways, pos­ing a threat to hu­man and an­i­mal health, as well as the gen­eral health of wa­ter­ways. Last sea­son 25 per cent of farms mon­i­tored un­der per­mit­ted ac­tiv­ity rules – whether from the air or by ground-based in­spec­tions – were sig­nif­i­cantly non-com­pli­ant.

Over all, 27 per cent of farms mon­i­tored un­der ei­ther per­mit­ted ac­tiv­ity rules or EW’s con­sented sites regime were sig­nif­i­cantly non-com­pli­ant, as pre­vi­ously re­ported to the coun­cil’s reg­u­la­tory com­mit­tee.

How­ever, 2010-11 sea­sonto-date fig­ures for aerial mon­i­tor­ing re­sults (as at early March) show sig­nif­i­cant non-com­pli­ance with per­mit­ted ac­tiv­ity rules was at 11 per cent com­pared to the 25 per cent fig­ure from air and ground in­spec­tions for last sea­son’s full year score.

The data is from four of five flights car­ried out so far this sea­son (data from the fifth flight over the Mata­mata area is still be­ing an­a­lysed).

Sig­nif­i­cant non­com­pli­ance is gen­er­ally de­scribed as a dis­charge of ef­flu­ent that has ei­ther en­tered wa­ter, or is at high risk of en­ter­ing wa­ter, such as unau­tho­rised di­rect dis­charges of ef­flu­ent to drains and streams, and ex­ces­sive ap­pli­ca­tion of ef­flu­ent on to pas­ture near wa­ter­ways, or lead­ing to ground­wa­ter pol­lu­tion.

The sea­son-to-date sta­tis­tics in­clude the re­sults of mon­i­tor­ing that oc­curred dur­ing the early sea­son’s wet spell in the re­gion, which gen­er­ated con­di­tions that can make it harder to com­ply. (EW later sus­pended mon­i­tor­ing as the wet weather pro­gressed, in recog­ni­tion of the more dif­fi­cult com­pli­ance con­di­tions, and then re­sumed flights when con­di­tions im­proved. It is likely that sig­nif­i­cant non­com­pli­ance would have been even lower if con­di­tions in the early part of the sea­son had not been so wet.)

‘‘This data in­di­cates a range of ini­tia­tives taken by EW and the dairy sec­tor are be­gin­ning to have a pos­i­tive im­pact on re­duc­ing sig­nif­i­cant non-com­pli­ance in our re­gion,’’ said re­source use group man­ager Chris McLay.

‘‘The chal­lenge now is to build on this progress and lift com­pli­ance lev­els even fur­ther. EW staff are work­ing closely with DairyNZ and Fon­terra to this end.’’ The mea­sures in­tro­duced since the 2009-10 fig­ures were re­leased in­clude:

EW in­creas­ing the level of aerial mon­i­tor­ing.

Fon­terra’s ‘‘ev­ery farmev­ery year’’ in­spec­tion of ef­flu­ent man­age­ment sys­tems by the com­pany.

The ef­flu­ent com­pli­ance checklist and rules sum­mary dis­trib­uted by DairyNZ.

Joint ef­flu­ent man­age­ment field days with farm­ers.

De­vel­op­ing the ac­cred­ited ef­flu­ent sup­plier code of prac­tice.

The de­vel­op­ment of a Waikato ef­flu­ent stor­age cal­cu­la­tor for help­ing de­cide on the cur­rent ef­flu­ent pond ca­pac­ity for each prop­erty.

Con­sid­er­able me­dia pub­lic­ity and in­dus­try ed­u­ca­tion on hav­ing ef­fec­tive ef­flu­ent sys­tems and com­ply­ing with rules.

This sea­son, EW in­creased its he­li­copter mon­i­tor­ing pro­gramme from about 600 to 1000 farms or 25 per cent of dairy farms in the re­gion.

So far five flights check­ing about 135 farms each have been car­ried out around Mata­mata, Hamil­ton, Mor­rinsville, Otoro­hanga and Po­keno.

Flights were sus­pended dur­ing the ex­tremely wet weather ex­pe­ri­enced last spring as EW recog­nised the weather had over­whelmed even the most well de­signed and man­aged sys­tems.

How­ever, they re­sumed when the weather had set­tled with flights over Otoro­hanga in Novem­ber, Mor­rinsville in Jan­uary and Mata­mata this month.

‘‘We will be closely analysing the data from the re­main­ing flight we plan this sea­son to see what im­pact this has on the over­all trends we’re see­ing,’’ said Mr McLay.

‘‘We take our re­spon­si­bil­i­ties un­der the Clean Streams Ac­cord very se­ri­ously and we will con­tinue to work closely with Fon­terra and DairyNZ to make im­prove­ments.

‘‘We hope the im­proved fig­ures so far this sea­son are a sign that we have turned a cor­ner. We con­grat­u­late farm­ers who have lifted their game to meet their en­vi­ron­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. But EW will also con­tinue to fo­cus at­ten­tion on farm­ers putting the en­vi­ron­ment at risk by flout­ing the rules.’’

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