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.”

ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Patience: Drive Safe

Be patient before passing is the AA's message for drivers this Labour weekend.

"People taking crazy risks to get past other vehicles is one of the most dangerous things on the road,” says AA spokesperson Dylan Thomsen.

“The weather is looking good for the long weekend so the roads will be busy. Unfortunately, that also increases the chances of people getting frustrated and trying a risky passing manoeuvre. When they get past, there will probably be more traffic up ahead anyway so it won’t get people there faster.” More>>

 
 

Parliament Today:

Employment Relations Bill: Govt Strains To Get Tea Break Law Through

The Government has been left with egg on its face - failing to get its much-vaunted, but hugely unpopular, meal break law passed in the first week of its new term, Labour spokesperson on Labour Issues Andrew Little says. More>>

ALSO:

Guns: Police Association Call To Arm Police Full Time

"The new minister gave his view, that Police do not need to be armed, while standing on the forecourt of parliament. The dark irony was that the interview followed immediately after breaking news of a gunman running amok in the Canadian parliament in Ottawa..." More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Tokenism Of New Zealand's Role Against Islamic State

Our contribution against IS will be to send SAS forces to train the Iraqis? That’s like offering trainers to General Custer just as the 7th cavalry reached the Little Big Horn. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: Shell And Todd Caught Drilling Without Approval

Multi-national oil company Shell’s New Zealand arm and local energy giant Todd Energy have breached the new law governing New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the Environmental Protection Authority says in an Oct. 10 document released by the Green Party. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Pharmac, Gough Whitlam And Sleater-Kinney

We’re not at the outset of these negotiations. The outset was six years ago, and negotiators were hoping to have some sort of ‘framework’ deal finished in time for the APEC meeting in a few weeks’ time. These ‘extreme’ positions are what we’ve reached near the intended end of the negotiations… More>>

ALSO:

PM Of Many Hats: Questions, No Answers On Whale Oil

Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader – Green) to the Prime Minister: How many times since November 2008 has he spoken with blogger Cameron Slater on the phone and how many times, if any, has he texted him?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): None in my capacity as Prime Minister. More>>

ALSO:

Aussie Investigation Dropped: Call On Minister McCully To Pursue The Case Of Balibo Five

West Papua Action is deeply concerned at the lack of any clear outcome from the Australian Federal Police inquiry into the 1975 deaths of the ‘Balibo Five’ including NZ journalist Gary Cunningham. More>>

ALSO:

'Feed The Kids' Bill: Metiria Turei To Lead Fight On Feeding Hungry Children

Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei is urging all political parties to support the Feed the Kids Bill which she inherited today from Mana leader Hone Harawira. More>>

ALSO:

Parliament Today: State Opening Of Parliament

The House sat at 10.30am on Tuesday before MPs were summoned to hear the Speech from the Throne in the Legislative Council Chamber. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Regional
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news