Improved rates of dairy effluent compliance in 2011-12 season

Thursday, 12 July, 2012

In 2008, Environment Canterbury initiated a meeting with various industry partners, along with Fish & Game and Forest & Bird, to discuss ways to improve levels of dairy effluent compliance. A combined industry and Environment Canterbury group (Canterbury Dairy Effluent Group) has been working collaboratively since then to improve the rate of dairy effluent compliance. Now, it appears that their work is paying off.

Out of 977 dairy farms in Canterbury, New Zealand, 70% achieved full compliance with dairy shed effluent consent conditions in the latest season, up from 65% in the previous season. Another 21% of dairy farms had minor non-compliance issues, down from 26% in the previous season. The rate of significant non-compliance also fell to 8.6%, down from 9.8% in the previous season.

The preliminary results are part of Environment Canterbury’s Dairy Report for the 2011-12 season, which involved Environment Canterbury compliance officers visiting each of the region’s dairy farms at least once between July 2011 and May 2012. The full results and report will be made available later in the year and it will contain region-specific information.

Environment Canterbury Commissioner Tom Lambie said dairy effluent consent compliance is monitored because it has the potential to affect the freshwater quality in streams, rivers and lakes if not properly managed.

“It is very encouraging that our monitoring has shown a steady improvement in overall compliance rates from season to season,” said Lambie.

“In most cases of significant non-compliance, improvements are being made on effluent disposal systems and management of ponding. We recognise dairy farmers are actively working on storage options to ensure full compliance with conditions.

“The improvement in compliance reflects the work done by Environment Canterbury in collaboration with industry partners and other stakeholders.”

Dairy shed effluent must be managed in accordance with resource consent conditions or permitted activity rules. Enforcement actions for significant non-compliance issues include abatement notices and infringement notices, and in extreme cases prosecutions are possible. In the 2011-12 season there was only one major non-compliance incident where charges were laid and these were upheld last month.

Environment Canterbury is also strongly encouraging all farmers to follow good practice and exclude stock from natural waterways. Additional rules came into force in June this year prohibiting intensively farmed stock from entering natural waterways.

“Keeping stock out of waterways is another way we can protect water quality and this is particularly important at this time of year when livestock move to other properties for winter stock feeding,” said Lambie.

“In these cases temporary fences may need to be set up to keep stock out of natural waterways.”

Lambie said nutrient management is also important for farmers, and it will become more a particular focus when Environment Canterbury notifies its draft Land and Water Regional Plan in August this year. Under the plan all farmers will be expected to achieve industry good practice for nutrient management based on nitrogen loss targets.

When the plan becomes operative in early 2014, farmers will be required to begin to record nutrient losses. It is proposed that any changes in land use resulting in either an increase in the volume of water for irrigation or an increase of more than 10% in nitrogen losses will need a resource consent application. Additional rules will also come in to force in July 2017.

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