Concern at the number of complaints about agrichemical spray drift in recent months has prompted Waikato Regional Council to remind people they need to follow the rules to avoid affecting other people’s properties.
Under the Waikato regional plan, people undertaking “widespread” spraying activities are required to have a spray control plan, including measures to avoid drift, and to notify neighbours before spraying. “Widespread” is considered to be anything that is more than the use of low pressure hand-held spray equipment used for spot spraying.
“In recent months we’ve received complaints about spray drift, with 19 people contacting us,” said the council’s incident response manager, Derek Hartley.
“One of the principal problems is caused by sprayers who are not notifying their neighbours as they are required to do under the rules,” Mr Hartley said. “This means people don’t know what is being sprayed and can’t take steps to avoid contact with the spray, like disconnecting rainwater systems, avoiding hanging out washing or going out on the day spraying occurs.
“Complying with the rules when spraying is not onerous. If sprayers contacted their neighbours a day or two before spraying, maintained an adequate spray plan as set out in the regional plan rules, and used common sense about choosing the right weather conditions when spraying, a substantial number of the issues we hear of would just not occur,” Mr Hartley said.
He noted that people failing to follow the rules could receive an infringement notice or even face prosecution in court where the maximum penalty is two years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $300,000 for an individual or a fine up to $600,000 for a company.
Examples of spray drift complaints include people saying it has:
- damaged a recently planted wetland area
- damaged part of a vineyard
- made a person and their dog sick
- contaminated tank water supplies.
“While we can’t always substantiate what people have told us, these are concerning issues,” Mr Hartley said.
“We’d ask people to stick to the rules to avoid affecting other people’s health and lifestyle, and to avoid harming waterways, and non-target plants and animals.”
Given the frequency, and number of complaints, the council is intending to take a harder line with sprayers not following the rules in future.
People are encouraged to read the relevant rules at www.waikatoregion.govt.nz, or contact the council on 0800 800 401 for advice.