Eye in the sky sees more farms comply
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.’’