Farm chopper checks reduced
Waikato Regional Council will trial a new way of checking up on dairy farmers’ effluent systems, with fewer helicopter checks and a greater focus on “high risk” soil areas and ground-based visits.
The number of dairy farms to be checked by helicopter will more than halve, from about 1000 last season to up to 500 this season, council compliance and education manager Rob Dragten said. This would mean up to an eighth of the 4000 dairy farms in the Waikato would be checked from the air rather than about a quarter.
The number of flights, where large batches of dairy farms are checked in one flight, would reduce from about seven flights last season to about five this season.
However, farmers should not relax. All farmers will still be expected to comply with effluent management rules and anyone could still have a helicopter inspection over their property, Mr Dragten said.
The council trial would involve more ground-based work with farmers to fix problems and a focus on high risk areas. These areas are not being divulged in advance as this, combined with the helicopter checks, will encourage farmers to get their systems up to scratch, he said.
The cut-back in helicopter monitoring was intended to improve environmental outcomes by better targeting of resources, he said. It was not a response to AgResearch studies which showed that helicopter checks were one of the highest sources of stress for under-pressure farmers.