Random helicopter fly-overs of Waikato dairy farms have helped focus the dairy industry on effluent management and should remain an important monitoring "tool".
Councillor Paula Southgate's comments came yesterday at a full Waikato Regional Council meeting, in which she said the fly-overs "had their place" in the council's monitoring of dairy effluent systems.
This week the council announced it would trial a new way of monitoring effluent breaches, with fewer helicopter checks and a greater focus on ground-based visits and "high risk soils".
The council plans to target up to 500 farms in areas with soils that are seen as having a greater risk of allowing effluent to get into waterways.
The regional body is one of only two councils to use random helicopter checks and previously carried out about seven helicopter flights a season over about 1000 dairy farms.
The number of flights is expected to reduce to about five this season.
Regional council resource use group manager Chris McLay said the council would continue to work within its existing budget for environmental monitoring.
Although fewer farms would be checked, council staff would be able to spend more time with farmers, Mr McLay said.
There are approximately 4000 dairy farms in the Waikato.
Ms Southgate said the helicopter monitoring programme had helped stakeholders "to sharpen their pencils" and focus on the issue of complying with effluent management rules.
She said she supported the new approach, but added helicopter fly-overs were still a useful tool to have.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Do you agree with Hamilton City Council's plan to introduce a minimum living wage for its lowest paid workers?Related story: Hamilton City Council backs living wage