Fewer pros­e­cu­tions au­gur well for en­vi­ron­ment


Dairy farm­ers ap­pear to be clean­ing up their act, with fewer farms pros­e­cuted for dirty dairy­ing this year than pre­vi­ously.

Fig­ures ob­tained by Fair­fax Me­dia re­veal the 17 re­gional coun­cils suc­cess­fully pros­e­cuted 21 dairy ef­flu­ent of­fences in the year to July 1, re­sult­ing in fines of $847,600.

This is the low­est num­ber of con­vic­tions in re­cent years, and is fewer than half those of 2008-09 or 2009-10.

The fig­ures were ob­tained un­der the Lo­cal Govern­ment Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion and Meet­ings Act.

On the down side, the num­ber of abate­ment no­tices and in­fringe­ments is­sued climbed slightly on last year, from 290 to 303 and 221 to 253 re­spec­tively. This is still a sig­nif­i­cant de­crease from the 2008-09 year, when there were 49 pros­e­cu­tions and 537 abate­ment no­tices and 500 in­fringe­ment no­tices.

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers pres­i­dent Wil­liam Rolle­ston said the or­gan­i­sa­tion was happy to see the in­dus­try’s ‘‘le­gal foot­print’’ was im­prov­ing.

‘‘While 21 pros­e­cu­tions is 21 too many, we need to re­mem­ber that there are some 12,000 dairy herds in New Zealand.

‘‘It af­firms our view that there is a gen­uine change of cul­ture in farm­ing. A decade ago the main topic would be stock­ing rates but to­day it is dom­i­nated by en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors.

‘‘When you’ve got weath­er­beaten dairy farm­ers in their late 50s com­par­ing notes on ri­par­ian plant­ings and ground sen­sors, you know there’s a cul­tural change.

‘‘We also need to be re­al­is­tic that these num­bers will os­cil­late and some years will be bet­ter than oth­ers, but the over­all trend is pos­i­tive,’’ Rolle­ston said.

‘‘We are also see­ing the courts tak­ing a much tougher line, with the av­er­age fine grow­ing sub­stan­tially as each sea­son passes. Clearly, the courts take the view that there is plenty of sup­port there from not just us, but from DairyNZ, dairy pro­ces­sors, con­sul­tants and even some coun­cils.

‘‘Af­ter some years of ten­sion, we are see­ing coun­cils com­mu­ni­cat­ing bet­ter with farm­ers, and this has made a sub­stan­tial dif­fer­ence to com­pli­ance.’’

Fish & Game chief ex­ec­u­tive Bryce John­son wel­comed the lower fig­ure but said ‘‘we have to be aware that even just one of­fence can cause huge dam­age, can com­pletely ruin a stream’’.

He cited the the case of North­land farmer Craig Roberts, who was fined a record $137,750 last year. John­son said the group re­mained con­cerned at the vari­ance in mon­i­tor­ing regimes be­tween coun­cils.

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