Local Govt | National News Video | Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Search


Helicopters grounded for now but monitoring to continue

Helicopters grounded for now but monitoring to continue

Waikato Regional Council today confirmed it will suspend use of helicopters for monitoring dairy farm effluent compliance pending a review of its methods for checking farmers are working within the rules to protect waterways.

Although ground-based monitoring will continue, stopping helicopter monitoring will affect the council’s ability to exercise its regulatory functions as effectively as in the past, the council heard.

Today’s decision follows an earlier recommendation from the environmental performance committee for a halt to the flights, pending such a review, after it heard about the stress helicopter monitoring caused farmers.

During today’s meeting the council also agreed to establish a working party, with nominated representatives from the dairy leaders forum and councillors Alan Livingston, Clyde Graf and Stuart Husband.

The working party has been tasked with investigating the various options for monitoring farm effluent systems and bringing a recommendation back to the council within four months identifying the best options to undertake regular monitoring.

During a lengthy debate about the pros and cons of helicopter monitoring, some councillors questioned the link between farmer stress levels and helicopter monitoring but nevertheless agreed it was timely to review monitoring methods.

In past years, the council used helicopter flights to randomly monitor farms in the region to see if they were compliant with environmental rules. The helicopter flights were seen as an efficient way to cover farms and identify those where on-ground follow-up inspections might be necessary to determine whether effluent run off into waterways was occurring.

In more recent years, however, the council has taken a more targeted approach, with flights only over areas where soil conditions mean effluent is more likely to get into water. Staff look from the air to see who has obvious signs of effluent discharges to water so compliance activities can be focused on them and the fixing of discharges which contribute to water pollution.

All other farms flown over then receive an on the ground visit at an appointed time to help ensure their effluent systems can comply with rules all year round, especially during winter’s wetter weather. Farmers have been advised about effluent system design companies for help if they need to make effluent system improvements. There has been positive feedback from farmers on this advisory approach.

A staff report to today’s full council meeting noted that, besides helicopter flights and on-the-ground inspections and advisory work, the council was working closely with the dairy industry and others to improve farmer compliance with environmental protection rules.

The current helicopter flights would mean one aerial inspection per farm every six years. It was estimated that 100 farms could be inspected from the air in the same time it would take to conduct ground-based inspections of one or two farms.

Staff felt that ground-based inspections by prior appointment alone was unlikely to be as effective in detecting rule breaches as helicopter use. The report said ground only inspections could mean increased costs, fewer farm inspections overall, more unannounced ground-based visits and more inconvenience for farmers.

“Ceasing using the helicopter at the present time is likely to mean that the very small proportion of farmers who deliberately seek to hide significant non-compliance are much less likely to be caught,” the report said.

After the meeting, council chair Paula Southgate said that, whatever the outcome of the review, it was important for the dairy sector, farmers and the council to continue all the positive work they were doing together to protect the health of waterways from effluent.

“The dairy sector and individual farmers deserve a great deal of credit for the effort they have put into lifting environmental performance in recent years. As we work through the review process, it is critical that we keep our eye on the need to protect our rivers, streams and lakes. Their health is very important to all our communities.”


© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines



Labour: Little Announces New Shadow Cabinet

“Labour had an impressive intake of fresh faces after last year’s election and newest MPs have now had a year to show what they’re made of. This reshuffle rewards hard work and continues my drive to renew our Caucus line up." More>>


Because Reasons: Someone Reckons David Seymour Is Politician Of The Year

Trans Tasman's 11th annual Roll Call has thrown a curve ball this year, ignoring the likes of John Key, Bill English, and Winston Peters to pick its politician of the year from the ranks of the new generation. More>>


Whaling: NZ Deeply Disappointed By Japan's Decision

“New Zealand is strongly opposed to whaling in the Southern Ocean. We call on Japan to take heed of the 2014 International Court of Justice decision and international scientific advice concerning their whaling activities.” More>>


Relevant Consents Gained: Government Unveils RMA Reform Package

The government has formally hauled down the flag on its attempts to alter the balance of environmental and economic priorities in the Resource Management Act, unveiling a 180-page Resource Legislation Amendment Bill containing reforms that have been largely endorsed by most political parties. More>>


Closing Schools And Such: Interim Redcliffs Decision Announced

“While the school’s board has argued that circumstances that could give rise to potential disruption are extremely unlikely, advice from technical experts has shown these concerns cannot be ruled out." More>>


Jane Kelsey: High Court Can’t Make Groser Provide TPPA Information Faster

‘This week we went back to court to challenge Trade Minister Groser’s stalling tactics over the release of information on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations, following a High Court order that he reconsider the Official Information Act request I made last January’, said University of Auckland law professor Jane Kelsey, first applicant in the case. More>>

Werewolf 58: No Climate For Change

The last time the global community tried to take collective action on climate change the world’s leaders finally came to agree that every not-too-onerous effort should be made to hold global warming to 2°C above the pre-industrial average. At Paris, all 150 participant countries nations will have put forward their pledges... On the information available, New Zealand's is the second weakest contribution of any nation in the developed world. More>>


Lambton Quay Shutdown: Object Was Made To Look Like Bomb

Police cordoned off part of Lambton Quay Wednesday afternoon, saying that a suspicious package had been found. Buildings were evacuated and buses were detoured. The army’s explosive ordnance disposal unit was brought to the Quay. More>>


Public Sector Still Shrinking: Record Low Number Of 'Backroom Bureaucrats'

Ongoing restraint in the public sector and a focus on better frontline services has seen a further reduction in the number of core Government employees, State Services Minister Paula Bennett says. More>>


Get More From Scoop



Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news