Farmer lashes council over spraying complaint inaction

HARRY PEARL
Last updated 07:25 30/01/2014

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A Thames farmer who believes he was poisoned after his water supply was contaminated by agrichemical spray claims the Waikato Regional Council is letting spray-drift incidents "slide".

Ross Williams said he was sick for a year and his dog died after his water supply was polluted by chemical spray that crossed his boundary during a neighbour's aerial application in 2009.

The incident killed trees on the property. He says his son's family, which is now living at the address, is still reliant on bottled or boiled drinking water.

Mr Williams says a creek which supplies the house with water on his 242-hectare cattle and pig farm was contaminated after the spraying and is still in dire condition.

"The whole ecosystem of the creek is stuffed."

The council gave a formal warning to Mr Williams' neighbour in February 2013, but he said there should have been a prosecution. He wants the council to "fix up the mess".

The Waikato Regional Council recently vowed to take a harder line on sprayers not following guidelines.

The council has received 19 complaints about agrichemical spray drift in recent months and has warned people that careless use could result in prosecution, imprisonment or a potential fine of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But Mr Williams said letting spray-drift incidents like his "slide" was not good for the council's reputation.

"Everything they stand for, they're not doing," he said.

However, the group manager of resource use at the council, Chris McLay, said a "significant amount of resources" had been spent on Mr Williams' complaint, and there was little more the council could do. He said Mr Williams first raised the issue more than two years after the incident, meaning the council was unable to prosecute.

"We were outside of the statute of limitations for the Resource Management Act. There were no other legal avenues of prosecution."

He also said any prosecution would have been difficult to prove, as it required proof beyond reasonable doubt that water quality had been affected as a result of the spraying.

"It's hill country, used for pastoral farming. There's slips and landslides and it would be very difficult to say that any water quality effects were a result of this 20-metre buffer strip next to the stream."

Mr McLay said spray drift was a significant issue for the council and it looked at all its enforcement options.

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