Fed Farmers praises 'new attitude'

A new attitude is paying off. Photo by Craig Baxter.
A new attitude is paying off. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Federated Farmers believes a ''new attitude'' shown by Environment Southland is starting to pay off and the regional council is now actively working alongside dairy farmers.

The annual environmental compliance monitoring report, compiled by the council, showed full compliance from dairy farmers had increased.

Federated Farmers Southland provincial president Russell MacPherson described the results as a ''real boost''.

The majority of Southland's 887 farming effluent discharge consent holders inspected by the council were fully compliant with their consent conditions.

Farmers previously felt as if they would be ''belted for anything'' but were now seeing a partnership with the council and greater understanding, Mr MacPherson said.

In 2011, Environment Southland said it had ''had a gutsful'' of non-compliance by dairy farmers in the region and warned it would be taking a ''hardline, no excuses'' attitude, while one dairy farmer described the non-compliance as ''completely appalling''.

A Southland Dairy Effluent Advisory Group had since been set up to help farmers address any issues.

''We can approach this group with incidents we have found on farm and then work with them and the farmer to find long-term fixes,'' council compliance manager Simon Mapp said.

The on-farm co-operation was extremely pleasing and was assisting with increased compliance, he said.

Last year, 34 infringement notices and 16 abatement notices were issued and 11 individuals or companies were prosecuted.

Southland, which is home to 11.1% of the country's dairy cows, has 929 herds and 532,079 cows, on a total effective area of 194,322ha.

Mr MacPherson believed the same scrutiny that farms were put under should be extended to councils.

He cited three human sewage spills within a month into Lake Wakatipu, the latest of which closed a 200m stretch of beach where his family swam and went boating when on holiday.

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

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