Dairy farm 'better for environment'

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 10/05/2012

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A farmer who intends to convert his land into a dairy farm near Te Anau says the land is suitable despite a number of people opposing the development.

White Waters managing director Hans Vernooji intends to farm 599 dairy cows and is seeking discharge permits for effluent from a dairy shed and a land-use consent for a 1500 cubic metre effluent pond.

At a hearing yesterday before commissioner Allan Cubitt, Mr Vernooji said he had farmed in the North Island for 18 years before purchasing his farm on Kakapo Rd, near Te Anau, in 2007.

Sixteen people made submissions opposing the dairy farm because they were concerned about potential leaching from the effluent pond, that the normally dry soil might not be suitable for dairying and proposed water use could impact on other users of a rural water scheme on Kakapo Rd.

However, Mr Vernooji said: "When I purchased the land I thought it would be dry but as I found out it was really wet and soft."

He said he believed the land was no longer suitable for winter grazing and would be better suited to a dairy conversion.

"The wintering pad is harder on the environment than a dairy farm would be," he said.

He believed the proposed new system, discharging effluent with a slurry tanker would be easier on staff and resolve past issues.

The pond storage capacity was sufficient to hold up to 80 days of effluent based on using 30 litres per cow per day in the dairy shed and including an allowance for rainfall and yard run-off, Mr Vernooji said.

The volume was consistent with the calculations of the dairy effluent storage pond calculator, he said.

Mr Vernooji said he also had plans to develop a 40ha hazelnut farm on the land.

Soil scientist Bill Risk, acting on behalf of White Waters at the hearing, said although effluent could not be applied to some Te Anau soils, it could be if some limitations were recognised.

Environment Southland planners said Mr Vernooji had past compliance issues for a discharge consent for a property at Otautau between April 2002 and July 2011.

Mr Vernooji acknowledged that he had non-compliance issues in the past and put them down to "the system growing too fast" and staff issues.

Of the 29 submissions, four were in support and five were neutral.

Philip Ryan submitted that Mr Vernooji was a good dairy farmer with "top" stock and the farm would be run as a "top" dairy unit.

The decision was reserved.

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- The Southland Times

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