Some Waikato farmers are causing a stink and getting up the noses of their neighbours by not getting rid of their dead stock properly.
The Waikato Times has received calls from people concerned about what they have seen this calving season, including a report of 15 male calves found dumped in a drain with their throats slit.
In another case, a lifestyle block farmer said his neighbour left dead cows and calves lying around next to the boundary fence for up to a week at a time. About four dead cows and 10 dead calves sat next to his fence, rotting.
“He wouldn't bury them and left them uncovered. There was smell and flies - it's just not on.”
When the lifestyle farmer complained, the neighbour at first dug a pit for the bodies - but the pit was less than 10 metres from the boundary fence and uncovered. “He has a whole farm he could have dug it on."
It took the Waikato District Council to intervene, twice, to get the matter sorted.
The council's regulatory team general manager, Nath Pritchard, said anyone with a similar problem could contact the council.
“They can ask for one of our environmental health officers and we'll take action, depending on the circumstances.
“It only becomes an issue for us if it's next to someone's fence or it's smelling or there's flies or rats - then it becomes a nuisance under the Health Act and we can take action. We can talk to the farmer and tell them to clean it up.”
Usually this conversation took place over the phone, Pritchard said, but if a neighbour had a serious concern or the problem persisted, a council environmental health officer could go out in person and talk to the farmer.
“If we can't convince the farmer this behaviour is contrary to good neighbourliness, we would certainly think of a prosecution, if it is serious enough. But we would be disappointed if we couldn't talk the farmer around. Most farmers are pretty reasonable really.”
Waikato Regional Council compliance and education manager Rob Dragten said reports of dead animals in waterways or multiple dead animal bodies were usually only received after “pretty significant flooding”.
“Sometimes we get a complaint of one cow that has been dumped, or offal or remains that have been dumped.”
Under the Resource Management Act, people were not allowed to discharge contaminants - including animal bodies - into water or onto land where they could get into water. Under the council's regional plan, farmers should not put dead animals next to a boundary.
The council's first preference was for farmers to pay a licensed collection service to take the bodies away, usually for rendering into products such as blood and bone fertiliser or animal feed.
Farmers could put small dead animals, such as calves or lambs, down an offal hole, as long as the hole was constructed properly and was not near a waterway.
For larger dead animals such as cows, bulls and horses - where farmers could not get them taken away by a collection company - they could be buried in areas away from shallow water tables.
“It is prohibited under regional council rules to put dead stock in your rubbish dump because dead animals and rubbish together can generate leachate, which can leak into the ground water or even into the surface water.”
Federated Farmers Waikato president James Houghton said there was no excuse for farmers leaving dead stock lying around.
But he said the industry should not be judged by one or two bad players.
“People don't judge Hamilton by what happens on a Friday or Saturday night. It should be the same with farming.”
People having long-running problems with farmer neighbours could contact Federated Farmers and they could do what they could to help.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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