Water report highlights non-compliance

While it is good to see progress being made by dairy farmers on many environmental issues, the Water Accord report released today also highlights that this good work is being let down by persistently high non-compliance by large numbers of farmers in some areas, says Forest & Bird.

Some regions continued to have high rates of significant non-compliance in effluent management and the lack of standard monitoring systems by regional councils cast doubt on the reliability of some of the more positive-looking figures, said Forest & Bird Campaigns and Advocacy Manager, Kevin Hackwell.

"It’s very disappointing after all these years that there are still some parts of the country with high rates of significant non-compliance with their dairy effluent systems," he said.

"Northland and Auckland are still reporting one in five farms is significantly non-compliant in their effluent practices."

The Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord Progress report showed 21 percent of 963 Northland farms monitored were significantly non-compliant and 19 percent of the 168 Auckland farms that were monitored.

In some regions, only a proportion of farmers were monitored. In Waikato, for example, only 10 percent of dairy farms were monitored and advance notice is given for those farm inspections. A quarter of New Zealand’s dairy farms are in Waikato, where the non-compliance rate was recorded at three percent in the latest survey.

"We suspect the real rate of serious non-compliance in the Waikato is actually a lot higher than the stated figure," Kevin Hackwell said.

"Regional councils should be consistent in their monitoring and enforcement so New Zealanders can have confidence about the reliability of the figures, and that all dairy farm effluent is being managed properly to protect our water quality."

Significant non-compliance includes breaches of consents which result in environmental damage or have a high risk of environmental damage. These breaches include inadequate storage facilities, overflowing sumps and untreated effluent being discharged into rivers.