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Published: 2000-12-21 00:00:00

Existing farms need protection from the encroachment of lifestyle blocks, according to Environment Waikato.

This week’s Regional Council meeting heard that for the first time Environment Waikato has received complaints about odour from intensive calf rearing facilities in the Region – a problem that is likely to increase in the future.

Complaints have come in over the past three months as calf rearing occurs on a larger scale this year than previously in the Region. Calves are reared for four to eight weeks in purpose built sheds which may house up to 1000 calves at once. Some are on grated floors with a concrete floor beneath and others use a deep litter system which does not produce any liquid effluent.

Both systems can generate significant odour at times and complaints relate to both types. Three operations have generated the most complaints and all have neighbours close by, generally less than 200 metres from the sheds. Neighbours have described the odour as foul and a stench which adversely affects their lifestyle.

Staff have visited sites on all complaints and the owners have been advised that the odour was unacceptable and that they should investigate ways of reducing the odour. Staff had attempted to resolve the issues at one site by negotiating changes to management practices but this did not appear to achieve adequate control. Another 4000 calf operation was planned to expand to 6000 calves this summer and resource consents were not required.

Cr Neil Clarke said he had some sympathy for established farmers when lifestyle blocks were established in close proximity, and the farmers need some protection. The problem could not be ignored and the Council needed to communicate with District Councils about its concerns.

There needed to be some form of indemnity for people buying lifestyle blocks close to farms, he said. They could sign a document noting that they understood the nature of rural living, just as coastal property owners signed waivers when they lived in coastal hazard zones. Some lifestyle block owners were undertaking calf rearing themselves.

Cr Evan Penny said when District Councils permitted subdivision in rural areas they created a conflict, and Environment Court decisions leaned towards not creating a nuisance beyond site boundaries.

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