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Aerial surveillance of winter grazing practices to increase

Aerial surveillance of winter grazing practices to be increased

ORC is to boost its aerial surveillance of farms in the Otago region to ensure that the effects of stock wintering practices do not breach new water quality rules in the Otago Water Plan.

ORC director of environmental monitoring and operations Jeff Donaldson said in past winters staff have customarily done one or two aerial reconnaissance surveys of the region to check on the impact of stock grazing.

However, the number of aerial inspections carried out this year would increase for the first time during the next two months, although how many flights would take place had not been finalised, Mr Donaldson said.
Staff would be looking for instances of sediment getting into waterways from pugging and bank collapses caused by stock either grazing beside or in a waterway on wet soils.

“The new water quality rules in the Otago Water Plan strengthen the onus on landholders to ensure their management practices, including stock wintering, do not cause excessive sediment discharges into waterways,” Mr Donaldson said.

“Where we believe that the new prohibited activity and permitted activity rules are not being met, we will follow up these aerial sightings with visits to property owners to ensure that these issues are rectified,” he said.

While ground inspections would remain ORC’s main means of detecting any compliance breaches, the aerial inspections offered a better perspective and overview of any widespread bank subsidence, pugging, and other threats to water quality.

Farmers could minimise the likelihood of pugging and sediment getting into water by keeping stock out of waterways, by maintaining riparian buffers between paddocks and waterways, and, where possible, by concentrating strip grazing on drier sections of paddocks and on the higher reaches of the paddock firstly and then working down.

Mr Donaldson said most farmers were astute about knowing where best to graze stock during wet winters, but a few were still following old practices that potentially contaminate waterways.

If in doubt about what ORC’s water quality rules required of them, they should or attend one of the workshops the council is holding throughout Otago from July 1 to 10, to brief people on the rules.

Alternatively, they could contact the ORC community liaison and education team.


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