Col­lec­tion cost could mar wa­ter­way health

South Waikato News - - RURAL DELIVERY -

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’’.

WAIKATO TIMES

FED­ER­ATED FARM­ERS: Pres­i­dent James Houghton says toxic agri-chem­i­cals could put the re­gion’s water­ways at risk,

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