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An Environment Southland hearing committee has reserved its decision on whether Southland meat processor South Pacific Meats (SPM) can spread effluent on to a larger area of farmland in northern Southland.
SPM, jointly owned by Affco New Zealand and Talleys Fisheries Ltd, opened a plant at Awarua, south of Invercargill, in 2005.
Last year, it gained consent from Environment Southland to spread sludge from the bottom of its wastewater treatment pond on to 55.5ha of a 1033ha sheep farm near Garston.
The council imposed several conditions, including a minimum three-year return period between successive applications to the same piece of land, and 100m buffer zones between the effluent-spreading area and neighbours or waterways.
SPM has now applied to vary the conditions. It wants to reduce nitrogen loadings by spreading the same amount of effluent over about 165ha, and is also seeking to have the buffer zones reduced to 20m.
The council notified the application to three parties and received one opposing submission from neighbour the Sim Whiteley Farm Partnership.
A one-day hearing was held in Invercargill on Thursday.
In their submission, Maree Whiteley and Peter Sim said spreading effluent over a wider area could expose their stock to the risk of parasites and pathogens such as worm and egg resistance, leptospira, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) and various forms of salmonella.
They were also concerned that if effluent ran on to their land they would not be able to graze those paddocks because of the presence of animal products in the effluent.
In her report to the hearing committee, council consents officer Louise White recommended the consent-condition changes as sought be granted.
When it granted consent last year, the council considered SPM's application did not provide enough certainty 20m buffers could mitigate potential adverse effects from overland flow, but SPM was advised it could apply for a change to buffer zone widths at a later date.
Buffer zones of 20m were consistent with the council's regional effluent application plan and the regional water plan and were considered by the council's soil scientist to be acceptable, Ms White said.
If the consent alteration was granted, among new conditions suggested were using a GPS tracking system to record where the effluent was being deposited, and adding two more water quality monitoring sites.