'Leaking tap' farm's consents period cut

BRIDGET RAILTON
Last updated 05:00 26/12/2013

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A dairy farmer with one of the worst compliance records in Southland has been described as "a leaking tap to the environment".

Union Station Dairies Ltd, which owns a farm at Tussock Creek, applied for a five-year consent to discharge dairy effluent and wintering pad effluent for up to 675 cows to land at the Environment Southland consents committee meeting last week.

However, councillors, concerned with the farm's history of poor compliance, amended the application to three years.

Councillor Ross Cockburn described the applicant as a leaking tap to the environment.

"There seems to be a pattern right through (of non-compliance)."

"Why give them five years when they can't manage three."

Councillor Neville Cook said there had been a history of poor management with the company.

"It seems we only get some action from them when we put pressure on . . . it's an issue for us and it should be for them as well."

Consents committee chairman, councillor Maurice Rodway, speaking after the meeting, said the three-year term reflected the committee's concerns about the performance of the company.

Because the discharge activity was classed as controlled, rather than discretionary, the committee could not actually turn the application down, he said.

"It's relatively low risk if the consent is conducted in the way it's supposed to be. It's that sort of thing that gives the dairy industry a bad name. [It's] certainly not a reflection on the dairy industry as a whole."

Fairfax records say the company, which the companies office website says is owned by Amberley-based farmer Cornelius Zeestraten, has been prosecuted by Environment Southland for non-compliance three times, including being fined $25,000 by the Environment Court in August 2009 for unlawfully discharging dairy shed effluent to land.

Federated Farmers Southland president Russell MacPherson said it was disappointing that some farmers were not following the rules and regulations, but the majority were.

It was clear the farmer in question was not "playing the game" but it was up to the council to monitor that, he said.

However, it might have been short sighted to give a short-term consent when maybe a longer term consent with infrastructure conditions would be better to ensure a lesser impact on the environment, he said.

"Under a short-term consent there is no financial incentive to upgrade his infrastructure.

"Maybe they need to look at what measures they should make him put in place on the farm to improve his compliance.

"Rules are put in place to catch these people who are not playing the game but most farmers are doing pretty well, compliance is actually going up."

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The most recent consent granted to Union Station Dairies Limited, in February 2011, was marred by two instances of significant non-compliance, including an infringement notice in 2011 and 2012, and an abatement notice in October 2011.

However, a report prepared for the consent committee's consideration for the application said the company had new measures in place for compliance improvement.

A third effluent pond was installed in May 2013 to remedy storage requirements which contributed to a major non-compliance rating, and the company had agreed to get the two older effluent storage ponds checked for leakage. After the third pond had been installed its compliance ratings had improved. The company had also confirmed the installation of an automatic fail safe device and will reshape and sow out in grass the area that had ponding, mentioned during the inspection on October 3, 2013.

Attempts to contact Mr Zeestraten were unsuccessful.

bridget.railton@stl.co.nz

- The Southland Times

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