Ef­flu­ent dis­charge still ma­jor con­cern

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

The un­law­ful dis­charg­ing of dairy cow ef­flu­ent into wa­ter­ways or on to land has taken its toll on the en­vi­ron­ment, on farm­ers and on re­gional coun­cils.

Even Fed­er­ated Farm­ers pres­i­dent Bruce Wills ad­mits new fig­ures make for bad read­ing. But he said the worst is be­hind us. The num­ber of pros­e­cu­tions and abate­ment and in­fringe­ment no­tices is­sued has at least dropped, and Mr Wills vows the in­dus­try will lift its game.

‘‘My sin­cere hope is that if you look at th­ese num­bers in an­other two to three years they will be sig­nif­i­cantly down,’’ he said.

‘‘We ab­so­lutely ac­knowl­edge the ef­fect dairy­ing is hav­ing on the en­vi­ron­ment and there are some ar­eas that have not been man­aged as well as they could have. We need to front­foot this is­sue and we need to lift our game.’’

Fig­ures ob­tained from the coun­try’s 17 re­gional coun­cils and uni­tary au­thor­i­ties re­veal that since July 1, 2008, there have been 151 pros­e­cu­tions in­volv­ing more than 300 charges against 198 com­pa­nies or in­di­vid­u­als for un­law­ful dairy ef­flu­ent dis­charges af­fect­ing land or wa­ter.

En­vi­ron­ment Court-im­posed fines col­lected from of­fend­ing par­ties to­talled at least $3,260,825.

A fur­ther 13 in­di­vid­u­als have re­ceived com­mu­nity work sen­tences to­talling 1650 hours.

Two re­ceived sen­tences of com­mu­nity de­ten­tion of three and six months.

For lesser of­fences in­volv­ing dairy ef­flu­ent dis­charges, coun­cils have is­sued 1698 abate­ment no­tices and 1564 in­fringe­ment no­tices.

Pros­e­cu­tions are taken only in the most se­ri­ous cases af­ter coun­cils have weighed var­i­ous fac­tors, in­clud­ing the ac­tual and po­ten­tial ef­fects of the dis­charge, whether it was de­lib­er­ate, the at­ti­tude of the of­fender, prof­its made from the of­fend­ing and the ef­forts made to clean up or rem­edy af­ter the dis­charge. The high­est fine of $120,000 was given to Po­tae and van der Poel Ltd on eight charges of dis­charg­ing ef­flu­ent to land and wa­ter on three sep­a­rate farms in 2010.

The com­pany was pros­e­cuted by West Coast Re­gional Coun­cil.

The num­ber of con­vic­tions fell from 51 in 2008-09 to 18 in the year to date.

Abate­ment and in­fringe­ment no­tices have also de­creased from 537 to 329 and 500 to 330 re­spec­tively. Mr Wills put the high of­fend­ing rate down to coun­cils tak­ing a more vig­i­lant ap­proach in re­cent years and the ‘‘ex­plo­sion in dairy farm­ing’’ that has seen the num­ber of dairy cows bal­loon from 3.4 mil­lion to 6.1 mil­lion over the past 20 years.

Fish & Game chief ex­ec­u­tive Bryce John­son said wa­ter qual­ity in low­land ar­eas con­tin­ued to de­cline.

The agri­cul­ture sec­tor should be deal­ing with its own poor per­form­ers rather than leav­ing it to ratepayer-funded re­gional coun­cils, Mr John­son said.

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