Did Fonterra meet its obligations?
Two senior Fonterra representatives will be at an Environment Court hearing in Blenheim tomorrow after a demand from Judge Jeff Smith that the company front-up.
The hearing is to consider whether the court should force Marlborough dairy farmer Philip Woolley to comply with environmental standards on his Awarua Farm, at Tuamarina.
Judge Smith said the Marlborough District Council application to the court was the first to be heard since Fonterra's updated Dairying and Clean Streams Accord.
If the council's allegations were proved, the court might make negative comments on whether Fonterra had met its obligations and the company should have the opportunity to respond, he said.
He originally gave the company until mid-afternoon to agree to attend, otherwise they would be summonsed.
He was told after the lunch break that Fonterra milk supply director Steve Murphy and top of the south sustainable dairying advisor Mirka Langford had agreed to attend the hearing tomorrow.
The accord states that Fonterra will check effluent systems on all suppliers' farms every year and write remedial plans if they did not comply.Judge Smith said he wanted to ask whether Fonterra had identified failings at Awarua Farm and had written an improvement plan.
Mr Woolley's lawyer David Clark said Fonterra had visited Awarua Farm last week and had produced an improvement plan.
Council lawyer Peter Radich said he supported having Fonterra officials at the hearing.
''This is a serious matter and only yesterday do we get proposals from Fonterra,'' he said.
''This does call for an explanation.''
The court heard this morning that raw effluent is discharged around the milking shed every day regardless of weather and soil conditions. When the system broke down, ''effluent spills where it will'', Mr Radich said.
Either the Woolleys did not appreciate the importance of protecting water from contamination or they did not care, he said.
Commissioners Russell Howie and Carron Blon are also on the Environment Court panel, sitting for two days.
A Fonterra spokesman told the Marlborough Express last week he was unable to comment on Mr Woolley's situation while the case was before the Environment Court.
Fonterra had in the past stopped taking milk from a farm which breached terms of supply but always preferred to work with farmers and help them make required changes, he said.
- The Marlborough Express
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