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Published: 2007-12-19 00:00:00

The latest Environment Waikato aerial operation checking for illegal dairy effluent management practices has revealed more promising results.

One hundred farms were the subject of an aerial inspection in the Kaipaki area, near Hamilton, on 4 December. As a result of the aerial inspection 29 farms were then visited by Environment Waikato officers. A dozen farms were found to have issues with their dairy effluent management, with only one farm identified as having practices that may result in a prosecution, said Environment Waikato’s environmental services programme manager Ross Wightman.

His comments came as the council announced that five dairy farms had been fined a collective total of $71,000 in the Thames District Court last week for “dirty dairying” practices detected during an Environment Waikato flight last season.

The five prosecutions resulted from a flight over the Kerepehi area on the Hauraki Plains. A second flight last season over the Gordonton area resulted in six prosecutions. In total 18 prosecutions were taken by the Council last season against dairy farms for effluent mis-management.

“So to get just one potential prosecution from our latest flight over Kaipaki is really heartening,” said Mr Wightman.

This season’s first aerial monitoring flight – over Otorohanga-Pirongia-Te Awamutu last month – was of more concern as it indicated less widespread but more serious offending.

The council has another four flights planned for this summer.

The council’s sustainable agriculture coordinator Gabriele Kaufler, on 0800 800 401, is available to give effluent management advice to any farmers who want to improve their practices. Mr Wightman said the council had run a series of effluent workshops in October, with one well-attended session held in the Cambridge-Kaipaki area. “This may have contributed to better compliance by farmers in that area, and the fact that fewer issues were detected by our latest flight. We are very happy to provide more advice or hold workshops in other areas if farmers request them.”

Mr Wightman said that generally the rules around effluent management are widely known but workshops can help farmers ensure that their theoretical understanding will work in practice.

“With the amount of information and help available, there really is no excuse for poor practices. So we’re hopeful the rest of our flights this summer will show an equally positive result as the latest one.”

Meanwhile, the five farming operations fined in the Thames District Court last week received fines of between $20,000 and $8000.

Mr Wightman said the council never liked having to prosecute.

“The council would far rather work with farmers to sort things out before matters go to court. However, we will not shirk from prosecuting serious or persistent offending where this is judged necessary.”