Collection cost could mar waterway health
Waikato farmers balking at the cost to remove toxic agri-chemicals from their properties could ultimately be putting the region’s waterways at risk, says the region’s Federated Farmers president, James Houghton.
Since last year, one tonne of chemicals has been removed from Waikato farms by recycling firm Agrecovery.
But collection of a further 1.5 tonnes of unwanted or legacy chemicals was cancelled because farmers refused to pay the collection fee.
The fee depended on the type and quantity of chemicals to be collected.
Since government funding for an agrichemical collection scheme ended in 2009, farmers have to pay for collection.
Experts predict 300 tonnes of unwanted agri-chemicals are stored on the nation’s farms.
The collection of some chemicals is funded by a national levy on about 50 agricultural firms but un-branded chemicals are the farmers’ responsibility.
Mr Houghton said many farmers were unaware of what chemicals were stored on their farm.
There was no point arguing who the chemicals belonged to, he said.
‘‘We just need to focus on how to get rid of them.
‘‘The risk of them not being collected is that it just leaches into the ground and potentially into the groundwater.
‘‘Where it goes after that . . . that is the total unknown.’’
He said Federated Farmers was keen to assist farmers, suggesting community collection drives could motivate farmers.
‘‘We need to get industry and regional council together to get it collected.’’
Waikato Regional Council has criticised the user-pays system, saying the new approach can make it harder for farmers to dispose of the agri-chemicals promptly.
Spokesman Stephen Ward said the council was also concerned about the time it took for appropriate disposal.
Farmers were forced into the new system after the $4 million scheme ended because the Government considered it was time to move towards a user-pays system.
Ministry for the Environment said the scheme was unlikely to be funded again.
But the ministry said it was ‘‘working with stakeholders to explore alternative options under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008’’.
FEDERATED FARMERS: President James Houghton says toxic agri-chemicals could put the region’s waterways at risk,