Poor ef­flu­ence com­pli­ance in Waikato


The Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil says dairy farm ef­flu­ent com­pli­ance rates are head­ing in the right di­rec­tion de­spite less than one quar­ter of farms mon­i­tored last year deemed fully com­pli­ant.

The fig­ures re­leased un­der the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act showed that the coun­cil in­spected 1174 farms, nearly twice the num­ber in­spected the pre­vi­ous sea­son.

Of those farms, 23 per cent achieved full com­pli­ance, 2 per cent had a high level of com­pli­ance, 43 per cent were pro­vi­sion­ally com­pli­ant, 24 per cent were par­tially com­pli­ant and 9 per cent were sig­nif­i­cantly non­com­pli­ant. The coun­cil’s farm ser­vices team leader Stu­art Stone said while the fig­ures showed farm­ers still had some way to go, they were mak­ing progress.

‘‘They are [mak­ing progress]. The farmer at­ti­tude is pos­i­tive, and if we look at the 9 per cent non-com­pli­ance, they are the ab­so­lute mi­nor­ity.’’

Some of the farms’ ef­flu­ent sys­tems had me­chan­i­cal faults while oth­ers had staffing is­sues, he said.

‘‘There’s been some real Rolls Royce sys­tems out there - good ponds, good ir­ri­ga­tors - and they have done well to in­vest in that, but they are not go­ing through and in­vest­ing in staff train­ing.’’

This had showed up when own­ers went away on sum­mer hol­i­day.

‘‘We saw many oc­ca­sions where the ir­ri­ga­tors weren’t man­aged cor­rectly or the storm water di­ver­sion wasn’t be­ing flipped over, just re­ally let­ting their em­ploy­ers down and let­ting the in­dus­try down.’’

He es­ti­mated there was only a hand­ful of farm­ers that were sig­nif­i­cantly non-com­pli­ant that had ended up be­ing pros­e­cuted.

‘‘In the 2016-17 year, we is­sued 25 in­fringe­ment no­tices, 15 abate­ment no­tices and we for­mally warned 82.’’

In the pre­vi­ous sea­son, sig­nif­i­cant non-com­pli­ance was 10 per cent and those farms pro­vi­sion­ally com­pli­ant had shifted from 43 per cent to 29 per cent last sea­son. Full com­pli­ance in 2015-16 was slightly higher 26 per cent.

Sixty-eight per cent of farms were ei­ther fully, pro­vi­sion­ally or had a high level of com­pli­ance.

Be­ing pro­vi­sion­ally com­pli­ant meant farms could not prove to the coun­cil that their ef­flu­ent ponds were sealed.

The 23 per cent that had achieved full com­pli­ance had ei­ther com­pleted the nec­es­sary test­ing to prove it was sealed or were syn­thet­i­cally lined.

Many of the 24 per cent of farm­ers who were par­tially com­pli­ant had in­suf­fi­cient stor­age year round. Stone said they were con­scious of the eco­nomic cir­cum­stances farm­ers had found them­selves in with ef­flu­ent up­grades cost­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars.

‘‘We have given them quite a bit of time to re­quest plans and there is quite a bit of time to get those plans back to us.’’

The poor weather that plagued the re­gion ear­lier this year also high­lighted ef­flu­ent sys­tems that were not prop­erly pre­pared.

Waikato Fed­er­ated Farm­ers pres­i­dent An­drew McGiven said while the num­bers looked a lit­tle im­pos­ing, it was im­por­tant to note that more than 90 per cent of farm­ers com­plied with coun­cil re­quire­ments, ei­ther par­tially or fully.

The Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil found that 23 per cent of in­spected dairy farms were fully com­pli­ant last year.

In­ad­e­quate stor­age, me­chan­i­cal fail­ure and poorly trained staff were the rea­sons why 9 per cent of in­spected dairy farms were sig­nif­i­cantly non­com­pli­ant last sea­son.

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