EW re­sumes aerial checks on ef­flu­ent

South Waikato News - - RURAL DELIVERY -

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s the re­gional coun­cil check­ing your ef­flu­ent sys­tem. En­vi­ron­ment Waikato has an­nounced it will re­sume heli­copter mon­i­tor­ing of com­pli­ance with ef­flu­ent man­age­ment rules.

The mon­i­tor­ing pro­gramme was sus­pended af­ter an ex­tended pe­riod of wet weather over win­ter.

The sus­pen­sion recog­nised the dif­fi­cul­ties farm­ers had been hav­ing com­ply­ing with the rules be­cause of the amount of rain, said com­pli­ance and ed­u­ca­tion man­ager Rob Dragten.

A re­port to the EW Reg­u­la­tory Com­mit­tee meet­ing noted there had been two mon­i­tor­ing flights to date this dairy­ing sea­son – one around Po­keno in Au­gust and a sec­ond around Hamil­ton in Septem­ber.

The con­tin­ual wet weather over win­ter had clearly left farm­ers grap­pling with a range of is­sues on their farms, the re­port said.

‘‘The ma­jor­ity of the sig­nif­i­cant non­com­pli­ance [ef­flu­ent man­age­ment] is­sues ob­served were over­flow­ing stor­age ponds or ir­ri­ga­tion on to wet or sat­u­rated soils, re­sult­ing in dis­charges to sur­face wa­ter oc­cur­ring,’’ the re­port said.

Ground-based fol­low-up to look at non­com­pli­ance showed a com­mon theme of rain hav­ing pre­vented pad­docks from drain­ing to the point where they could rea­son­ably ac­cept ef­flu­ent ir­ri­ga­tion.

Some farm­ers re­ported get­ting nearly their en­tire year’s rain­fall in just the few months pre­ced­ing EW’s in­spec­tions.

‘‘Many farm­ers were able to demon­strate they had fol­lowed best prac­tice and emp­tied their ponds in late au­tumn but the ex­tra­or­di­nary rain­fall had led to those ponds fill­ing to the point of over­flow­ing by early Au­gust,’’ the re­port said.

Mr Dragten said ‘‘we ex­pect farm­ers to have suf­fi­cient stor­age to be able to cope with the nor­mal range of weather con­di­tions ex­pe­ri­enced in their lo­ca­tion.

‘‘How­ever, we recog­nise that even the best de­signed and man­aged sys­tem can be over­whelmed in ex­treme weather.’’

Given these sorts of cir­cum­stances, the re­port said a de­ci­sion was made af­ter the sec­ond heli­copter flight to halt fur­ther aerial mon­i­tor­ing un­til the weather set­tled enough to en­able farm­ers to cope with the wet weather is­sues on their farms.

Now that there has been about six weeks of be­low nor­mal rain­fall, it has been de­cided that heli­copter mon­i­tor­ing can re­sume, the re­port said.

Mr Dragten said the sit­u­a­tion showed that EW recog­nised it had to be flex­i­ble in its ap­proach to en­force­ment when cir­cum­stances war­ranted.

‘‘We will con­tinue to work closely with farm­ers and the agri­cul­ture sec­tor to help min­imise the im­pacts of farm­ing on wa­ter qual­ity in the re­gion.

‘‘The cir­cum­stances de­scribed in the re­port show that a num­ber of farm­ers were be­ing caught out by the bad weather even though they were do­ing their best to man­age things prop­erly.’’

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