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Dairying Still Dirty!!

25 October 2006

Dairying Still Dirty!!

Disappointing results from the Waikato and Canterbury Regional Council surveys of dairy farms highlight the cavalier attitude some dairy farmers have towards the environment.

Environment Canterbury's report on dairy shed effluent compliance for the 2005/06 season makes appalling reading; less than 50% of farms complied with their discharge consent, and worse, the compliance rate continues to decrease from 2003.

Bryce Johnson, Director, Fish & Game New Zealand said, "The ongoing decrease in compliance rates since 2003 is very disturbing. Despite clear rules for their effluent discharge consents, a number of farmers continue to thumb their nose at both our already threatened environment, and the public that enjoy it. Further, despite the low compliance levels, ECan initiated no prosecutions. Surely it's time for regional councils to get serious about protecting the public interest in waterways by prosecuting those farmer who flout the law and cause the rest of the community to suffer the consequences."

Environment Waikato has also exposed ongoing pollution by dairy farmers following its first helicopter flight of the year checking for dairy effluent pollution. A quarter of farms in the Kerepehi and Paeroa areas have seriously breached dairy effluent rules.

Mr. Johnson continued, "The worst of it is that although many farmers reported seeing the helicopter when EW ground staff visited their farms four days later, almost none had tried to clean up their mess. This attitude of carelessness and disregard for the environment, or even for simple rules, is disgraceful. I support EW's efforts in monitoring compliance, but now call on them to take much firmer action by prosecuting the poor performers."

Also evident from recent reports, is the fact that a core number of well managed farms consistently observe responsible practices. These high performers rescue the compliance rates from outright disaster, and the poorly performing, environmentally careless farmers are riding on the backs of those who put in the effort to pass on a healthy environment to the next generation.

"Clearly, the voluntary approach to cleaning up our waterways is not working," said Mr. Johnson, "The core group of high performing farmers need to add their voice to our calls for tougher measures on cavalier polluters. Fonterra's 'Terms and Conditions of Supply' requires farmers to comply with all resource consents - yet Fonterra continues to take milk from non-compliant operations. This suggests Fonterra's environmental policy compliance requirements are little more than shallow rhetoric."

"Fish & Game has been criticised in past for our stand on agricultural pollution, and the industry has consistently advocated education and voluntary compliance over regulation. This advocacy rings hollow in light of these results, where after several years, many farmers won't even comply with legal consents. It's time for some more effective action, especially by Fonterra, which should be taking a much more forthright stand with its own suppliers."

ENDS

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