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Environmental performance shows no improvement

October 25, 2006


Dairy farmers’ environmental performance shows no improvement in Canterbury
Environment Canterbury’s 2005/06 report on dairy shed effluent discharges shows no improvement on the 2004/05 figures. The 2005/06 survey shows only 48 per cent of the 541 farms monitored were fully compliant with their consent effluent discharge conditions. (The 2004/05 survey showed 52 per cent full compliance and the 2003/04 survey, showed 61 per cent full compliance).

“If we take out technical breaches, only 55 per cent of dairy sheds would have been fully complying on first visit from an ECan staff member. This is still not good enough,” ECan’s chair of regulation overview, Cr Angus McKay said. Technical non-compliance does not cause any adverse environmental effects and includes exceeding the consented or permitted volume of raw effluent.

Seventy-four dairy sheds which were found to be fully compliant and meeting their effluent conditions in the three previous seasons were not surveyed this time around. Because of this, the statistics cannot be strictly compared year-on-year. The fully compliant dairy farms were located from the Rakaia River south to the Waitaki.

“Even though we cannot directly compare this season’s survey to last season, the recent results still show that there is significant non-compliance of around 19 per cent. As a result ECan will be monitoring all dairy discharges this coming season and unless there is a significant improvement, ECan will take more legal action. We will be raising our concerns with industry and farming groups. In particular, we will be talking to Fonterra as part of the Clean Streams Accord, “says Cr McKay.

“While we applaud farmers meeting their responsibilities, we are concerned and need to look at other ways of influencing the hard core, non-complying operators.”

Effluent ponding is a significant issue on dairy farms as it can lead to increased nitrate leaching to ground and nearby groundwater or waterways and microbiological contamination. This can make groundwater unsuitable for drinking and can adversely affect streams fed by groundwater.

“Individually, these cases of non-compliance may not have caused major environmental effects, but cumulatively, there is a long-term issue of dairy farm contributions to nitrate contamination of groundwater and waterways, which has to be addressed.”


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