Dairy effluent non-compliance doubles

Southland dairy farmers have racked up twice the number of effluent-related non-compliance notices this year compared to last year.

Figures obtained by Fairfax Media under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act show Environment Southland has issued 16 abatement notices, 33 infringement notices and two prosecutions for dairy effluent disposal lapses so far in 2013-14.

In 2012-13, those numbers were four abatement notices, seven infringements, and one prosecution.

However, Environment Southland compliance manager Simon Mapp said it was too difficult to draw any concrete conclusions from the figures as they did not show the full picture.

"Yes, we've doubled our figures. My only comment is it's not the key determinant of whether the industry is doing well or not and when we tally up figures [for the end of year compliance report] that is a better reflection of compliance."

Last year the council reported, in its end of year compliance report, overall compliance was improving and there had been a decrease in incidents on the previous three years.

On-site dairy farm inspections in 2012-13 revealed most consent holders inspected were fully compliant with consent conditions. The report says that was driven by a combination of the industry wanting better performance and consent requirements.

The compliance report for this year was not expected to be completed until October, Mapp said.

Southland was not the only province that stood out for dairy effluent lapses.

Neighbouring province Otago had the highest number of prosecutions for dairy effluent lapses of all the regional councils, with seven for the year so far.

Otago Regional Council chief executive Peter Bodeker said the council had clear rules about prohibited activities and it had to be a pretty serious event for them to pursue prosecution.

Not all of the prosecutions came from lapses on dairy land and the majority were because of effluent in waterways, he said.

The council worked closely with industry agencies such as DairyNZ and Federated Farmers to ensure there was plenty of knowledge in the farming community about how the rules worked, he said. Prosecution was the last resort for the council.

"We don't enjoy taking people to court; there's no financial benefits for ORC and we are looking at other options," he said.

The Southland Times