Fonterra urged to get tough
Fonterra should stop picking up milk from dairy farmers who consistently breach regional council rules, says Central South Island Fish & Game chief executive Jay Graybill.
His comments come in response to Environment Canterbury's preliminary figures for the 2011-12 season, which show that 70 per cent of the region's 977 dairy farms achieved full compliance with dairy shed effluent consent conditions.
Mr Graybill said although ECan had responsibilities as the regulator, Fonterra should also start hitting dairy farmers in the pocket.
"If Fonterra wanted compliance rates to improve markedly, it should should stop picking up milk from dairy owners who consistently fail to comply," he said.
Mr Graybill acknowledged the figures were a "slight improvement" from 65 per cent in the previous season, but the progress was simply too slow. Major noncompliance was 8.6 per cent for 2011-12, slightly down from 9.8 per cent in the previous season.
Mr Graybill said Fonterra's Clean Streams Accord in 2003 stated 100 per cent of farm dairy effluent discharges should comply with resource consents and regional plans "immediately".
"Where's the integrity? It's been nine years," he said.
However, Fonterra's general manager for sustainability policy John Hutchings said the dairy co-operative's Every Farm Every Year project produced "real change".
"The project means all Fonterra shareholders are visited every year and their effluent compliance is checked and any at risk of noncompliance have plans put in place in order to remove that risk," he said. "It's about solid investment in best practice. We're already seeing the results on the ground," he said.
Since the project was introduced, Fonterra had visited more than 800 dairy farms in Canterbury, he said. Of those, 300 had upgraded their effluent management systems. "We're confident initiatives such as this will see continuous improvement."
Mid-Canterbury farmer Joel Townshend, who was fined $25,000 for discharging effluent into waterways, was ECan's only prosecution for significant dairy effluent noncompliance last year. It also issued 13 abatement notices and 19 infringement notices.
ECan's monitoring and compliance regional manager Brett Aldridge said its focus was on the "significant noncompliance".
"Those include effluent discharge into water, or major issues with ponding. They're the ones we have to target. We have a number of tools, not just the `big stick' of prosecution," he said.
Mr Aldridge said ECan was working closer with Fonterra and DairyNZ to drive improvements.
"Everyone agrees that more has to be done. Both the regulator and industry are singing from the same hymn sheet," he said.
ECan commissioner Tom Lambie said new rules came into force last month prohibiting intensively farmed stock from entering natural waterways, while the proposed land and water plan placed tougher requirements on nutrient management.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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