‘No excuses': ORC warns dairy farmers

Otago dairy farmers have been warned there will be no excuses next milking season for not complying with effluent disposal standards.

The Otago Regional Council is filing cases against 24 dairy farmers to the Environment Court for non-compliance and has also issued about five infringement notices, council director of resource management Selva Selvarajah said.

He warned that if farmers did not make moves to ensure they had adequate effluent storage for next season there would be ‘‘no excuses''.

‘‘Next season we want to see 100% compliance.''

The recent "Dairying and Clean Streams Accord: Snapshot of progress 2006-2007" highlighted survey figures released by the ORC last year and showed 7% of Otago dairy farms were seriously noncompliant - a decrease in compliance between the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 season.

Of the 340 farms inspected last year, 47 properties, or 14%, were deemed to be non-compliant, it said.

Fourteen of those properties were non-compliant on the grounds of effluent discharges to water and the remainder were non-compliant on the grounds of overflowing sumps and ponds and irrigation on saturated soils, the accord stated.

That compared to the Waikato, which had more than 5000 dairy farms, where 30% of farms received a significant noncompliance rating.

However, despite Otago not being listed in the accord as one of the regions where noncompliance was more prevalent, Dr Selvarajah said the council was not comfortable with the rate of non-compliance.

The council had put considerable effort into educating farmers on how to manage their effluent effectively during the past 10 years with field days and information packs, and feedback from staff was that there were very few farmers or sharemilkers unaware of effluent management issues.

Yet compliance was not improving, with the figures from the survey showing this milking season was the worst yet, he said.

For some farmers, effluent management was not a priority and came down to either not having sufficient effluent storage or not managing their capacity well.

There needed to be a mind-set change so farmers looked at the effluent as an effective fertiliser rather than waste water, Dr Selvarajah said.

As well as nitrogen, the waste contained high levels of potassium and phosphate which could be used like a liquid fertiliser if spread over a greater area than the ORC's nitrogen loading guidelines.

‘‘If farmers treated it as a resource we wouldn't see any non-compliance issues.''

Given the dry weather over summer, he hoped those with storage were using it as a source of moisture and had emptied their storage facilities so they were ready for next season.

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