Ceas­ing flights raises ques­tions

North Waikato News - - News -

The Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil has moved to put an end to its con­tentious prac­tice of he­li­copter in­spec­tions of dairy farms.

It is in­stead bank­ing on the good­will of farm­ers to do their bit to keep the hun­dreds of litres of ef­flu­ent on their farms out of rivers, streams and lakes.

But there are many ques­tions to be an­swered and de­tails to be sorted out be­fore the decision made at a re­cent coun­cil meet­ing can be fully rat­i­fied. Key among th­ese is how much ex­tra the move from chopper flights to pre-an­nounced per­sonal vis­its to farms will cost ratepay­ers – and whether the dairy in­dus­try’s big­ger play­ers might be able to help ease that ex­tra bur­den.

Coun­cil­lors con­sid­ered the dairy ef­flu­ent com­pli­ance mon­i­tor­ing re­view work­ing party’s rec­om­men­da­tions at length, in­clud­ing the pro­posal to cease he­li­copter flights over the re­gion’s 4200 farms, be­fore de­cid­ing to in­clude those rec­om­men­da­tions as part of its long term plan de­lib­er­a­tions.

At Cr Bob Sim­cock’s be­hest the views of coun­cil staff are also be­ing sought, with an eye to see­ing how the new, friend­lier ap­proach will af­fect its op­er­a­tions and abil­ity to meet its statu­tory obli­ga­tions to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment.

Cr Lois Liv­ingston pointed out the cost was still a mys­tery.

‘‘ Un­til we know the fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tions we can’t make a fi­nal decision on this. Let’s find out who is go­ing to be pay­ing.’’

Work­ing party ad­min­is­tra­tor Rob Dragten said it was hoped the move would bring ‘‘buy-in’’ from farm­ers.

‘‘Some don’t have the money [to fix their tanks], some sim­ply don’t want to and some just don’t know their in­fra­struc­ture is not up to scratch.’’

The work­ing party com­prised coun­cil and in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

The group met seven times from Au­gust to Novem­ber and came up with seven rec­om­men­da­tions.

Be­sides ceas­ing chopper in­spec­tions, the group ad­vised the coun­cil adopt a more risk-based mon­i­tor­ing pro­gramme, where the level of reg­u­la­tory at­ten­tion in­creases as the risk of non- com­pli­ance in­creases, and vice versa.

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