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Published: 2005-04-13 00:00:00

Sixteen percent of dairy farms are seriously non-compliant with rules covering spreading dairy effluent on land, and 57 percent of dairy farms do not comply with at least a part of the rule, according to a survey by Environment Waikato.

The results were presented at last week’s Environment Waikato Dairy Liaison Group meeting, attended by over 60 industry stakeholders, including Environment Waikato Councillors and staff, Federated Farmers of New Zealand, Fonterra Co-operative Group, Dexcel, fertiliser industry, consultants and research organisations.

Environment Waikato’s Environmental Services Programme Manager Rob Dragten said the results of the Council’s audit of its dairy effluent rules were disappointing and the level of compliance was unsatisfactory. Land-based effluent irrigation systems were audited at 104 sites based on conditions of the Council’s ‘permitted activity’ rule.

Dairy Farmers of New Zealand Chairman Kevin Wooding , said he was concerned at the results.

“The industry does not support reckless polluters. We need to get people to take it seriously and lift effluent management up the priority list for farm activities. Effluent management needs to be second or third on the list, not last.”

“Greater compliance is required and increasing monitoring - including spot checks - has a role in achieving this,” he said.

Feedback from the auditing process indicated that a significant number of farmers did not understand the permitted dairy effluent rule. This was a concern when the rules had been in place for 10 years, and education activities and material had been provided to farmers .

“There needs to be an emphasis on education and advice to help up-skill farmers to have a good understanding of the issues and outcomes,” Mr Wooding said.

Mr Wooding said that there was a lot of positive work underway to ensure farmers improved their compliance with dairy effluent rules.

Recent helicopter surveys by Environment Waikato had also shown significant non-compliance issues on some dairy farms. The surveys had been followed up with ground inspections, and in some cases further regulatory action. Environment Waikato is considering using aerial surveys for future monitoring.

Mr Dragten said that the level of compliance clearly needed to improve. We are now reviewing our monitoring and enforcement processes to ensure that compliance is achieved.

Environment Waikato Chairman Jenni Vernon said the concern and commitment shown by the industry representatives at the meeting was encouraging. Environment Waikato has clear objectives to improve the level of compliance through monitoring, enforcement and education, and looks forward to working with the industry and farmers to achieve this.

Federated Farmers, Environment Waikato and Fonterra will meet again shortly to discuss further actions to help farmers understand the rules and increase the level of compliance.