Waikato Regional Council staff are beginning a limited series of unannounced visits to Waikato dairy farms to check rates of compliance with effluent management rules.
The rules are designed to protect the health of waterways in particular from contaminants in effluent.
“100 unannounced visits will be carried out anytime from now so we can compare compliance rates for announced and unannounced visits,” said farming services manager Nicole Botherway.
The background to the new series of unannounced visits is that the council used to monitor compliance using helicopters and unannounced visits.
Within the last few years, the council switched to doing announced visits as part of a new approach designed to have council staff working one-on-one with farmers to make any necessary improvements to effluent management systems and ensure compliance.
That approach has had a positive response from farmers but there have been criticisms from some that announced visits could enable farmers to cover up bad practices.
Following that criticism, staff gained council approval late last year to do 100 unannounced visits around the region over several months to compare compliance rates of farms receiving announced inspections and those getting unannounced visits.
“We’ll now be getting on with those unannounced checks and hope to be in a position to report back to the council by the end of the calendar year on what we find,” said Mrs Botherway.
“In the meantime we really appreciate the very positive work many farmers have carried out, in consultation with council staff, to lift their management of effluent and protect our environment. It’s this sort of co-operation that we believe can make a significant difference for our waterways and farmers who’ve invested in boosting their environmental performance deserve much credit.”