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Huge turnaround in dairy effluent compliance

Monday 29 November 2004

Huge turnaround in dairy effluent compliance

Bay of Plenty farmers have shown a huge turnaround in way they are disposing of dairy shed effluent – but still can’t afford to be complacent, says Environment Bay of Plenty.

Both Environment Bay of Plenty and Federated Farmers are delighted with the results of the 2003 to 2004 dairy shed effluent compliance monitoring survey, presented to the regional council’s regulation and monitoring committee meeting last week.

They revealed a marked increase in compliance levels from previous seasons, with 89% of the 315 properties checked getting the tick at first visit. In the three previous years, first-visit compliance had dropped annually.

“A year ago, I felt extremely uncomfortable when the results came out,” says Catherine Bull, chairperson of the Bay of Plenty dairy section of Federated Farmers. “It was not easy sitting in the regional council meeting listening to them. Afterwards, we worked with Environment Bay of Plenty compliance officers to develop a strategy to increase farmer compliance with our effluent disposal consents and there was a huge drive to turn things around.” Miss Bull says it was with relief that she read the report this year. “While the results are not perfect, they’re a huge improvement – and hopefully the start of a new trend rather than just being a one-off.”

Miss Bull says farmers are definitely giving more priority to meeting the standards set for dairy shed effluent disposal. “The level of awareness is increasing – we realise how important it is to mitigate our environmental impact.”

In the 2003 to 2004 season, 25% of consent holders accepted Environment Bay of Plenty’s invitation to be present during the inspection. Only 14% did that the previous season and just 4% the one before that. So that was also a positive change, Miss Bull says. “It shows the increased awareness and focus – and that we want to learn how to best manage our effluent disposal systems.”

Environment Bay of Plenty principal compliance officer Steve Pickles says staff have already inspected a large part of the region for the 2004/05 survey, with most sites again doing well. However there has been the odd case of a serious consent breach, he says. “Farmers must ensure that they keep their eyes on the ball.”

Both Environment Bay of Plenty and Federated Farmers have been working hard to improve performance levels and Mr Pickles hopes last season’s trend continues into the future.

Environment Bay of Plenty introduced a new system for compliance monitoring four years ago. It allowed for compliance visits to be made on one, two or three yearly frequencies, depending on the compliance history and effluent disposal type for each farm. Mr Pickles says the changes initially resulted in an overall drop in compliance because poor compliers are now monitored more frequently.

ENDS

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