Call for level playing field over effluent

Farming group Federated Farmers is calling for greater accountability for local body government and for urban areas over effluent discharge issues.

Federated Farmers' Otago provincial president Stephen Korteweg said recent human sewage spills into Lake Wakatipu, and lack of action against those responsible, was an example of a double standard for dairy farmers and their urban counterparts.

''We are not trying to go on a witch hunt or get offside with our urban neighbours but there should be a level playing field.''

The councils were all for better treatment of farming sewage and effluent, but had a double standard when it came to urban areas, he said.

Mr Korteweg said Federated Farmers hoped the issue would be addressed considering farmers got a ''hard time''.

''I have never seen any council go to environment court, but farmers go,'' Mr Korteweg said.

''It seems bizarre that one party is so differently treated to another party,'' he said.

Federated Farmers Southland provincial president Russell MacPherson said local councils should be subject to the same scrutiny as farms.

''If town and country had the same level of scrutiny then the national conversation, I feel, would be much better,'' he said.

Even-handed scrutiny would better connect farmers and councils. Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) chief executive Adam Feeley said in comparison to farmers managing one farm, the QLDC managed about 400km of pipes in a system used by about 29,000 residents and about 2.7 million visitors per year, and could not control all of their actions.

''However, we are doing more preventative maintenance; developing a trade waste bylaw, and increasing public awareness about what is and is not appropriate to put into sewers and drains.

''We will also be co-operating with the Otago Regional Council on prosecution action where an offender can be identified,'' Mr Feeley said.

- by Leith Huffadine