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Winter grazing flyovers show improvements

Winter grazing flyovers show improvements, good compliance with current rules

Compliance flyovers by the Otago Regional Council (ORC) in May, July and August this year found nearly all landowners were abiding by current rules, but more work is needed to comply with incoming intensive winter grazing regulations.

ORC Manager Compliance Tami Sargeant said the flights showed increasing awareness of existing and incoming rules.

“Over the flights, we saw relatively few risks from the sky that needed to be followed up on the ground, and we had a lot of great engagement with landowners and industry groups throughout winter. Otago farmers generally followed good management practices and mitigated environmental risks well.”

The annual winter flyovers allow staff to check for high risk and potentially non-compliant land use activities with a bird’s eye view. ORC undertook extra flights this year after the government requested increased monitoring of intensive winter grazing.

When potential non-compliance or high-risk activities are identified from the air, staff follow up on the ground with site visits or direct communication to landowners.

The flights provide a good opportunity for education, Ms Sargeant said.

“We’ve observed improved awareness over the course of the winter which reflects the productive conversations staff have had with landowners and their willingness to look after the environment. ORC’s Compliance Plan emphasises proactive engagement and education, and that’s been taken up really well by the community this year.”

Ms Sargeant said staff were monitoring preparation against current rules and new intensive winter grazing regulations that are not yet in force.

“One of the focuses for this year’s flights was checking compliance against upcoming rules from the government and Plan Change 8, and helping people to understand and prepare for those rules. The majority of the sites that we followed up on the ground were fully compliant with current rules, but may have breached incoming rules around critical source areas.

“Our message overall is that compliance this year has been good, although it’s really important that appropriate grazing plans and management practices are implemented for next season. We encourage people to get in touch if they need clarity or advice about current rules or new rules that will come into force soon.”

Incoming rules that farmers need to be aware of relate to the amount of paddock being grazed, grazing near critical source areas, and margins when excluding stock from waterways.

More information about current and incoming rules can be found on ORC’s website at www.orc.govt.nz/newwaterrules, or people can get in touch through our customer services team: customerservices@orc.govt.nz, or 0800 474 082.

By the numbers

ORC’s Compliance team completed three sets of three flights in May, July, and August across the Otago region:

North Otago – From Dunedin, north to the Waitaki River and inland to include the Maniototo.
South Otago – From Dunedin, south to the Catlins and inland to include Southwest Otago.
Central Otago – To cover Beaumont through to Queenstown, and north to the Lakes, including Makarora, and down through the Ida Valley.
Over the three sets of flights, staff identified 140 properties to follow up on the ground – 26 related to potential breaches of current rules, and the remainder related to future rules.

Eight site visits from the August flights are still pending due to the interruption of alert level 4, but of the 59 site visits to date, only two instances were found of low-risk noncompliance with current rules.

© Scoop Media

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