Federated Farmers is warning against a possible "witch-hunt"
against dairy farmers, after a new study of water quality in
the Kakanui catchment found it failed to meet national
A 10-month study, conducted by the Otago Regional Council
(ORC) revealed many waterways in the catchment had high
levels of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous, as
well as of E. coli bacteria.
Council chairman Stephen Woodhead said the situation, if left
unchecked, would lead to nitrate accumulation in the Kakanui
aquifer, and added that with the high nutrient (NNN)
concentrations provided by the lower Kakanui River and
Waiareka Creek, dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) could
stimulate algal growth in the Kakanui estuary.
"This investigation provides new information for all of us.
"Everyone in the community needs to understand that this sort
of deterioration of the environment is not sustainable."
Cr Woodhead said the report, to be tabled at the council's
natural resources committee meeting on November 29, indicated
an increase in dairy farming, a lack of sufficient effluent
storage on some farms and the prevalence of light soils with
poor filtration qualities all contributed to the problem.
He said well-thought out improvements to farm practices could
bring about observable improvements in waterway health.
"We know there are improvements to be made on some farms to
increase effluent storage, and top-class effluent management
"We know there are farmers who need to fence off stock access
to waterways and fine-tune their irrigation practices and
nutrient budgets. We also know that the majority of farmers
do not want to be shamed by prosecution and face hefty fines.
"I will be recommending to the natural resources committee
that we plan a community meeting for the new year. We'll work
on strategic and practical approaches with NOIC (North Otago
Irrigation Company) and other farmers in the area, and
present these along with the report to the wider community."
Federated Farmers North Otago president Richard Strowger said
he had not seen the study results, but it was important "not
to jump to conclusions" about blame.
"As farmers we also want to find the practices that affect
water quality and find solutions to them. The results and
conclusions need to be fully analysed to ensure we get a true
"What is of great concern is if people jump to conclusions
based on this study without the full understanding. I hope
that with collaboration of all parties we can find solutions
without a witch-hunt-type mentality coming out where we as
farmers will be burnt at the stake."
Mr Strowger also said he was "surprised" the council had
released the information before results had been tabled at
the its natural resources committee.
NOIC chairman Leigh Hamilton said the company would work with
ORC to meet the problem "head on".
"Our Audited Self-Management system is well embedded, and we
have a framework in place to drive continuous improvement in
farm practices among our shareholders."