Testing helps farmers meet standard

Shane Hildred takes a look at Bull Creek, one of the waterways running through his Henley...
Shane Hildred takes a look at Bull Creek, one of the waterways running through his Henley property. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Shane Hildred is used to having his occupation blamed for all the problems with New Zealand's waterways.

He is a dairy farmer on the Taieri and believes pointing the finger at the dairy industry has become fashionable.

Yet, he says, as farmers and land users, those who operate dairy farms are more aware of what is happening in their environment.

His awareness has led him to agree to let the Otago Regional Council take water samples from the drains on his property, which is at the southernmost end of the Taieri catchment.

"We decided it would be better to work with them than against them."

The testing is part of the council's water catchment studies aimed at helping inform farmers so they can meet the standards to be proposed in its upcoming rural water strategy.

The water in the drains on his property is tested every three months to assess levels of E. coli and nitrate.

Late last year, the first results came in with few surprises for Mr Hildred.

"They were probably not 100% as they would desire and one was excessively high but we found its source - so that was a good thing."

However, as the data was new and there was no historical data, it would take a few years before the information would influence farming practices, he said.

"If the public keep pointing the finger at the dairy industry ... I hope this highlights what, in this area, the influence of nitrate and E. coli is in the water."

In the long term, he believed the information would influence farming practices.

"It's a win-win situation."


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