Outdated irrigators in front of the courts again
Friday, 24 August 2018 12:00 a.m.
Two companies have been fined for accidental dairy effluent discharges onto land which led to waterways. Both discharges were discovered by Council staff during routine compliance checks. Tirohanga Farm Limited and TNN Holdings Limited pleaded guilty to the charges and were fined $32,000 and $30,375 respectively.
The prosecution against Tirohanga Farm Limited involved a failed dairy effluent irrigator at their Matakana Island farm. The pool of dairy effluent at the base of the irrigator, approximately 40m wide, was overflowing down a hillside and into a waterway that led to Blue Gum Bay. A sample taken 20m downstream of where the discharge entered the waterway showed a reading 1600 times the maximum safe level for swimming.
The case against TNN Holdings presented in a similar way. The officer visiting the property found thick ponded effluent sludge in front of a rain-gun irrigator at a property above Lake Rotomahana. This effluent was flowing into Haumi Stream and measurements taken 10m downstream of where the discharge entered the waterway showed it was 43 times the safe level for swimming.
Compliance Manager Alex Miller says irrigators with no failsafe’s should be a thing of the past, and farmers need to invest in adequate equipment to ensure this sort of thing doesn’t happen.
“To pick up such high bacteria readings in a waterway that leads into a ‘Nationally Significant Area’ or lake, especially when there’s a $200M project to improve the water quality, is unacceptable,” he says.
“Dairy farm effluent needs careful management and this is what the resource consent and our annual compliance inspections set out to achieve. Consent holders need to take these environmental risks seriously, and preparing for that just needs to be considered a cost of being in business. To say “the irrigator blocks all the time” isn’t good enough,” he says.
Both Judges agreed it was concerning that cases like this continue to come in front of the court. Judge Harland’s said that in the case of TNN Holdings although it was up to the farm worker to check the irrigator at the end of the day the responsibility for complying with the consent rests with the holder of it.
“The key point here is that good systems need to be effectively managed, and effective management includes effective training and supervision of staff,” says Judge Harland.
There are almost 700 consented dairy sheds in Bay of Plenty which Council routinely inspects, with a focus on reducing poor effluent pond management, effluent irrigation issues and effluent being discharged through the storm water network. Overall compliance in this industry had been improving, and the majority of Bay of Plenty dairy farmers comply with the rules, but 2017/18 saw an increase in significant issues which prompted enforcement.
The next round of annual dairy farm compliance checks are being carried out in September 2018.
You can view a snapshot of the 2017/18 compliance report here.
Click on the picture to access a larger file.