Dairy farmers face river-crossing wrath

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 06:41 31/07/2012

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The owners of six dairy farms that still breach national rules on stream crossings, despite being given three years' leeway, could be prosecuted in six weeks if they don't take steps to comply.

All stream crossings by dairy cows that caused environmental problems were supposed to have been eliminated three years ago, but six farms with 10 such crossing still remain in Marlborough.

A report to the Marlborough District Council's environment committee meeting said that council staff had surveyed Marlborough's dairy farms and found 32 incidents of farms breaching the rules.

There were 12 farms that did not have compliant wastewater collection, containment, and application systems, because they were too close to waterways.

Four farms put solid waste from milking sheds' stone traps, sumps and ponds directly onto land. The waste is supposed to be stored on an impervious surface where stormwater cannot run off onto land or into water.

Ten farms did not have any pond storage for adverse weather conditions, and six farms still had high-priority stream crossings remaining.

The report said the council had issued abatement notices for some of the crossings in February 2010.

Two of three Rai Valley farmers were issued with abatement notices to stop crossing cows through the Rai River and put in bridges. The remaining one was sold this year and the new owner has told council staff a bridge will be installed this winter.

The report said seven farmers were given time extensions till last month to get rid of the crossings, and three had done so. Four said they would do so this winter.

Council staff recommended that any high-priority stream crossings still remaining by September 2012 should be prosecuted.

The summary report said the council had monitored dairy farms in Marlborough since 1994. "The dairy sector in Marlborough is relatively small, consisting of 61 farms with a combined herd size of 17,300 cows. The council has been working alongside the dairy industry to improve environmental performance in Marlborough for some time."

The council has a water-quality monitoring programme in place, which has confirmed that intensive livestock farming (predominantly dairy) is having an impact in a number of Marlborough's waterways.

Councillors said the council staff and local Federated Farmers representatives had been working very closely with farmers.

Committee chairman Peter Jerram said there was a lot of goodwill from farmers and there had been considerable improvement over the past years.

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Councillor Francis Maher said a lot of effort had been expended to get that improvement.

However, Councillor Jessica Bagge said that even with three-years' grace people were still non-compliant.

- The Marlborough Express

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