Eye in the sky sees more farms com­ply

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

Waikato farm­ers have made sig­nif­i­cant en­vi­ron­men­tal gains last sea­son, with he­li­copter mon­i­tor­ing of dairy ef­flu­ent com­pli­ance show­ing com­pli­ance rates are up 15 per cent on last year.

The 2010-11 sur­vey showed 66 per cent of farms were fully com­pli­ant, up from 51 per cent last year. Oth­ers were mostly, or par­tially com­pli­ant.

The sur­vey aimed to iso­late ef­flu­ent man­age­ment prac­tices which con­tra­vene the rules lead­ing to ex­ces­sive lev­els of nu­tri­ents and bac­te­ria get­ting into wa­ter­ways. These posed a threat to hu­man and an­i­mal health.

Non-com­pli­ance is de­scribed as ef­flu­ent which has en­tered wa­ter, or is at a high risk of en­ter­ing wa­ter, such as unau­tho­rised di­rect dis­charges of ef­flu­ent to drains and streams or ex­ces­sive ap­pli­ca­tion on pas­ture.

Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil com­pli­ance and ed­u­ca­tion man­ager Rob Dragten said the sur­vey re­sults sug­gested farm­ers, Fon­terra and the agri­cul­tural in­dus­try de­served ‘‘a great deal of credit for the im­proved re­sult’’.

‘‘They have all worked well with us and the bet­ter fig­ures bear out how im­por­tant it is for all of us to work to­gether to lift our col­lec­tive game.’’

There were six he­li­copter mon­i­tor­ing flights dur­ing the 2010-11 sea­son, with each flight check­ing ap­prox­i­mately 135 farms in se­lected lo­ca­tions which dif­fered from last sea­son.

The Hamil­ton flight oc­curred shortly be­fore the coun­cil sus­pended mon­i­tor­ing flights in recog­ni­tion of the fact that ex­cep­tional rain­fall had ex­ceeded the de­sign ca­pac­ity of many ef­flu­ent sys­tems. Flights re­sumed when rain­fall re­turned to more av­er­age spring con­di­tions.

Mr Dragten said while ini­tia­tives taken by the coun­cil and the dairy sec­tor had a pos­i­tive im­pact, the chal­lenge was to lift com­pli­ance lev­els fur­ther.

‘‘The coun­cil is work­ing closely with DairyNZ and Fon­terra to this end,’’ he said.

Last sea­son more com­pli­ance mea­sures were in­tro­duced in­clud­ing in­creased level of mon­i­tor­ing from 600 to 1000 farms, Fon­terra in­spec­tions, a DairyNZ dis­trib­uted ef­flu­ent com­pli­ance checklist and de­vel­op­ing an ef­flu­ent sup­plier code of prac­tice.

‘‘The fact that more than one in 10 of the re­gion’s dairy farm­ers at­tended the Ef­flu­ent Expo is a real sign of how farm­ers have been look­ing to im­prove com­pli­ance and they are to be con­grat­u­lated on their much im­proved per­for­mance,’’ Mr Dragten said. ‘‘We will con­tinue to work closely with farm­ers to make even fur­ther gains and will re­main ready to take en­force­ment ac­tion where re­quired.

‘‘There are a va­ri­ety of fac­tors that can af­fect lev­els of com­pli­ance and our chal­lenge is to try to en­sure that the progress we’ve made in 2010-11 is en­hanced with fur­ther im­prove­ments.

‘‘We are com­mit­ted to close co-op­er­a­tion be­tween the coun­cil, farm­ers and the wider agri­cul­ture sec­tor to achieve that.’’

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