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.