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ECan annual dairy shed effluent report released

November 26, 2008


ECan annual dairy shed effluent report released

Environment Canterbury (ECan) today released its annual dairy shed effluent report. The report summarises the results of the previous milking season’s monitoring of effluent management at around 700 dairy farms, from Kaikoura District to the Waitaki.

ECan chair of regulation overview committee Cr Alec Neill said the results were similar to previous seasons with around half of all farms fully compliant with all their effluent management conditions.

Around one third of Canterbury dairy farms showed minor non-compliance and 20 per cent had more significant issues to be dealt with.

These are largely unchanged results on previous seasons. In order to address the lack of improvement in effluent management, the council was looking at ways of better engaging with the dairy farming community and environmental stakeholders.

A meeting last week between Council representatives, farming and environmental group representatives was a step in that process.

In the meantime, the recent results provide a basis for revisiting current ECan approaches to effluent management consent compliance.

The two main causes of consent non-compliance were machinery failures – for example travelling irrigators getting stuck in one position leading to ponding of effluent, which overloads groundwater with nitrogen, and changes in management or new people on dairy farms unaware of their full consent responsibilities.

“One way of improving environmental performance could be increasing monitoring of the minor non-compliant farms until they show a history of getting it right. ECan is already monitoring the small group of significantly non-compliant farms rigorously,” said Cr Neill.

“Last year ECan met with Fonterra and gave them a list of non compliant farms. Fonterra has been working with these farms independently and this approach will be helpful. However, the growth in conversions to dairy and staff turnover are key factors influencing compliance and the challenge is to pick these up in industry initiatives.”

Other summary points from the report are:
 There were four cases of direct discharges of effluent into streams or rivers. Two were serious, two were minor. In the previous season there were no cases of direct discharges of effluent to rivers. One of these cases has been prosecuted and the farmer fined $8,500. The other serious case is pending prosecution.

 Thirty $750 infringement fines (the maximum allowed for offences at this level under the Resource Management Act) were issued during the season and 33 abatement notices. This is an increase on the previous season’s 22 infringement notices and 26 abatement notices.

ECan monitors almost 700 dairy farms in Canterbury – 560 of which have resource consents covering the management of effluent and 136 which operate as permitted activities under the Transitional Regional Plan.

Effluent is the diluted waste from dairy sheds and is normally irrigated onto nearby paddocks as fertiliser. The safe dispersal of effluent is monitored by ECan’s environmental protection officers, who make unannounced, on-site inspections of dairy farms between September and July each dairy season.


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