Improvement in Bay dairy farm compliance
Friday, 15 February 2013 2:00 p.m.
Bay of Plenty farmers are doing better in complying with Bay of Plenty Regional Council's dairy farm effluent requirements - but they could improve.
This week's Regional Council Operations, Monitoring and Regulation Committee meeting heard that 74 percent of the 297 farms visited during the dairy season were fully complying with their consent conditions, an improvement on last season's 67 percent. Significant non-compliance, where effluent is overflowing to land where it could, or did, flow into a water course, dropped from 14 to 11 percent.
Regional Council Pollution Prevention Manager Nick Zaman said the number of significant non-complying farms was the lowest since the 2008-2009 season.
All 700 dairy farm consent holders in the region were sent a letter before the monitoring season began reminding them of their responsibilities in managing dairy effluent. The farmers were warned of a visit but not given a specific date. Regional Council pollution prevention officers then visited 297 farms. All farmers in a catchment were visited on the same day to ensure the same conditions for all. Staff inspected all aspects of the effluent treatment and disposal systems, he said.
The biggest problems were with adequate effluent storage, irrigation system maintenance and stormwater diversions.
"We are still seeing an over-reliance on technology in many of the non-compliance cases. You can't beat getting out and eyeballing the system each day to make sure it's working as expected," Mr Zaman said.
The highest level of non-compliance was in the central coastal region from Pāpāmoa to the Rangitāiki Plains. Rotorua farmers had the best results, with all farms either fully compliant or with low-risk non-compliance. The Rerewhakaaitu catchment had one serious non-complaint farm, but did not have effluent entering surface water.
"The Regional Council has had some very high profile dairy effluent cases over the last 24 months, which may have helped raise awareness within the farming community of the need to comply with resource consents," Mr Zaman said.
No farms were being prosecuted this season as a result of compliance inspections, which was a pleasing result.
"Overall there has been an improvement in sites fully complying with their resource consents, and at the same time the level of sites rated as major non-compliance dropped to the lowest level in five years."
Last year there were eight prosecutions in the region, with an average fine of $46,000 and total fines of $320,140, which may have had a deterrent effect. Nationwide, the level of penalties had also increased. Follow-up visits were made to all sites where there was significant non-compliance until the farmer was back in compliance, he said.
Operations, Monitoring and Regulation Committee Chairman Malcolm Whitaker said Dairy NZ, Fonterra and Federated Farmers were working hard to provide the advice and support to farmers to improve compliance on farms.
"The Regional Council will continue to work in a collaborative and concerted effort with the dairy industry and farmers to ensure these improvements continue. This includes making farm visits outside the monitoring visits and providing expertise for training days and developing tools for farmers," Mr Whitaker said.