Environment Canterbury councillor 'not proud' of warning over environmental breach

ECan councillor Claire McKay was served an abatement notice after a resource consent violation was committed on her ...
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

ECan councillor Claire McKay was served an abatement notice after a resource consent violation was committed on her Canterbury farm.

A regional councillor was officially warned about an environmental breach on her farm by her own council six weeks after being elected.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) councillor Claire McKay, a North Canterbury dairy farmer, has been served an abatement notice after compliance officers discovered a violation of her resource consent.

The notice was served to her in December last year, six weeks after she was elected as the North Canterbury councillor.

The breach was an unauthorised discharge of dairy effluent to land where it could enter water, resulting in ponding.

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Effluent is the product of a milking shed, containing a mixture of faeces and water.

When it pools, it can leach into groundwater or nearby waterways, posing a contamination risk.

ECan had been alerted to the breach through a phone call to its pollution hotline.

When contacted on Tuesday, McKay said the breach was a "very temporary issue" caused by a broken effluent pump, which had been resolved quickly.

A small spillage had occurred while the pump was being repaired.

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"It's the reality of when you're dealing with mechanical stuff," she said.

"We try our best every day of the year to be compliant, but it's the real world we live in."

McKay did not have day-to-day control of the farm, but acknowledged she had responsibility as the consent holder.

"It's embarrassing for my position as a councillor, I appreciate that. As a consent holder the buck stops with us – I have no argument with that.

"But it does signal that we need to understand how farm systems operate and sometimes things happen outside your control."

She believed the complainant may have been a "disenfranchised" staff member, but she had not confirmed that, she said.

The farm was once again fully compliant.

"Sometimes you get people who just don't care, and we're definitely not those people. 

"I'm not proud of it. It is what it is."

ECan monitoring and compliance leader Richard Purdon said the effluent pond had overflowed, resulting in effluent running down a bank and into a paddock.

"This breached the consent condition which specified no ponding," he said.

"The level of ponding was relatively minor, and in this case there was no evidence of effluent getting into a surface waterway or groundwater."

ECan last year comitted to greater transparency around its enforcement process, following revelations numerous water take consent holders were in breach of their consents.

It recently posted details of McKay's breach on its website, along with others on the end of enforcement action.

McKay, who is a vet, has responsibility for the council's water portfolio. She was previously the chair of the Waimakariri Zone Committee.

She was one of the seven elected councillors who joined six Government-appointed councillors last year.

She defeated fellow farmer Bill Dowle for the position.

 - Stuff

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