Media release

Farmers affected by wet weather

Wednesday 23 November 2016

Many farmers in Otago were affected by the wet weather last week, with the dairy sector having the additional concern of not being able to irrigate due to saturated soils.

Otago Regional Council (ORC) has already carried out around a quarter of the dairy inspections for this season.

ORC director environmental monitoring and operations Scott MacLean said the majority of farms met a high standard of compliance.

“It’s pleasing to see the number of dairy farms that are compliant every year, and that demonstrate good management and maintenance of their effluent systems,” Mr MacLean said.

“We know that maintaining, and particularly upgrading, systems can involve a large financial outlay. In the long run, the return on that investment benefits farmers through protecting the soil and grass, as well as the environment through preventing runoff to waterways.”

Several non-compliance issues were found during the inspections, mainly relating to irrigation issues and infrastructure failures, as well as discharges to rivers, which can affect water quality.

Mr MacLean said errors such as failing to check an irrigator to make sure the effluent nozzles are clear were avoidable.

However, ORC’s biggest recent concern was the five major instances of non-compliance discovered during the heavy rain event last week.

“Not only did we find irrigators operating in heavy rain, but the fields were already saturated, with obvious ponding,” Mr MacLean said.

“In the majority of these cases there was sufficient storage in the effluent ponds, which means poor management decisions were the cause,” he said.

Federated Farmers provincial president Otago Phill Hunt said farmers throughout Otago would be assessing the damage caused by the heavy rain and flooding, and what impact it could have on winter feed growth as well as stock growth, for lambs in particular.

“We recognise Otago farmers are facing challenging conditions due to the weather, and the majority are doing a great job. It’s disappointing that a couple are letting the side down.”

“Federated Farmers wants to reinforce the message that all farmers need to have the correct infrastructure and management practices in place that fit the purpose of their operation, as well as plans for when weather patterns like the one we had last week occur,” Mr Hunt said.

Heavy rain and subsequent flooding occur regularly throughout Otago, especially during spring.

Both ORC and Federated Farmers recommend farmers and landowners prepare for these weather events to minimise the impact of these adverse conditions, and that dairy farmers allow for sufficient effluent storage.

For more information please contact

Scott MacLean
Director environmental monitoring and operations
Ph (03) 4740827 or 027 4119459

Phill Hunt
Federated Farmers
Provincial president Otago
Ph (03) 443 1055 or 027 223 0398