Spray complaints in region prompt crackdown

HARRY PEARL
Last updated 05:00 22/01/2014

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Waikato Regional Council has vowed to crack down on the application of agrichemicals after it received complaints of spray drift damaging part of a vineyard and contaminating tank water supplies.

The council has received 19 complaints about agrichemical spray drift over recent months and has warned people that careless use could result in prosecution, imprisonment or a fine of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Among the complaints were reports of a person and dog becoming sick and damage to a recently planted wetland.

The council's incident response manager Derek Hartley said one of the main problems was that sprayers were not notifying their neighbours.

"This means people don't know what is being sprayed and can't take steps to avoid contact with the spray, like disconnecting rainwater systems, avoiding hanging out washing or going out on the day spraying occurs."

In at least one case, spray drift from a property affected a nearby business.

The owner of a Waikato vineyard, who wished to remain anonymous, said between 5 to 10 per cent of his vines were showing symptoms of spray damage.

"The leaves on the vines curl up and the new growth gets stunted," he said.

The spray has affected both his pinot noir and pinot gris varieties, but the extent of damage would not be known until late summer, he said.

"These sprays can travel up to several kilometres [but] it is extremely difficult to pin down what exactly happened."

The owner said the issue needed to be kept alive in people's minds and the council needed to better educate people.

The volume of complaints has prompted the regional council to remind people undertaking any spraying beyond the use of low-pressure hand held equipment of their responsibilities. That includes having a spray control plan in place and informing neighbours.

Failure to follow the rules has a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $300,000 for an individual and up to $600,000 for a company.

Mr Hartley said although it was not always easy to substantiate complaints, they were concerning.

"We'd ask people to stick to the rules to avoid affecting other people's health and lifestyle, and to avoid harming waterways, and non-target plants and animals."

Meanwhile, a spill of up to 3000 litres of weed killer into the Taiari stream earlier this month will not have any significant or lasting affect on the environment.

The spill happened after a truck veered off Waihi's Waitawheta Rd, and down a bank towards the stream.

Mr Hartley said water samples taken from the stream detected herbicide glyphosate, but there has been no sign of "acute ecological effects".

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harry.pearl@waikatotimes.co.nz

- © Fairfax NZ News

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