Ceasing flights raises questions
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.