Recent Otago Regional Council (ORC) dairy farm inspections have found disturbing examples of non-compliance with the Otago Water Plan prohibited activity rules.
ORC chief executive Peter Bodeker said recent inspections in South Otago had found a number of instances of ponding and effluent runoff into waterways.
“This is an extremely disappointing result, especially coming after the recent round of water quality roadshows attended by over 1200 farmers, and associated public information making it clear what the new water quality rules require of farmers”, Mr Bodeker said.
“We have over many years advised farmers that council would not tolerate breaches of the effluent related prohibited activity rules,” he said.
Prohibited activities were land-based operations that can grossly degrade waterways.
“It appears there are some dairy farmers who are determined not to accept the stewardship responsibilities they have to farm in ways that are compliant with Otago’s most basic and most important waterway protection rules,” Mr Bodeker said.
At the very least, all dairy farms in Otago should have sufficient effluent storage, and all effluent irrigators should have safety systems fitted, he said.
ORC is moving to a new risk-based system of dairy farm inspections as part of the implementation of new water quality rules. Using this approach, farms that have not implemented sound practices can expect frequent inspections and stringent enforcement action. Additional inspections will also be made to farms in areas where water quality is degraded.
“The technology is there to ensure that effluent does not pond and runoff to waterways. It is up to farmers to obtain it, put it in, train staff to use it, and maintain it in good working order,” Mr Bodeker said.
“It is not acceptable for any farmer to wantonly pollute Otago’s waterways through neglect or mismanagement,” he said.
When dairy farmers reduce their environmental risks through improvements in infrastructure, the frequency of inspections by ORC staff will decrease.
However, if they continued to breach the Water Plan rules and degrade Otago’s waterways, they would end up spending money on court fines that would be much better spent on good farm infrastructure, Mr Bodeker said.
“Our objectives are to have every farm compliant with the new water quality rules, and to ensure good water quality in our rivers, streams, and lakes is maintained. Where water is degraded we expect it to gradually improve to meet the schedule 15 and 16 contaminant discharge standards in the Water Plan.”
This goal was endorsed by the community and industry stakeholders throughout the Plan Change 6A consultation and mediation processes.
“We cannot meet these agreed goals without farmers adopting good practices,’’ Mr Bodeker said.
Examples of this included: installing sufficient effluent storage systems, installing effluent irrigator safety systems (electronic sensor warning systems in the event of irrigator failure - e.g. hose disconnecting from the travelling irrigator on the irrigator systems), and upgrading to low-rate effluent irrigation systems in areas where effluent application is at times risky.
“Those farmers not willing to take these steps are letting the industry and their local communities down,” Mr Bodeker said.
ORC would use all the means at its disposal, including prosecutions, to convince them it was time to move to better ways of operating, he said.
For more information
ORC Chief Executive
Ph 03 474 0827 or 0274 998 328