Some regional councils failing to enforce dairy effluent rules - report

Regional councils are letting dairy farmers get away with breaking their own rules, according to a report just released by Forest and Bird.

The group found that between July 2016 and June 2017, there were 425 cases of serious non-compliance. But despite this, some councils did not take any formal enforcement action such as an infringement notice, an abatement notice or prosecution.

Dairy farm effluent. Source: 1 NEWS

Forest and Bird has compiled official information gathered from all the councils over the 12-month period to illustrate the state of monitoring and enforcement on the dairy sector across the country.

The group said some regional councils were failing even the basics of managing the significant environmental risks posed by dairy effluent.

Of the hundreds of cases of non-compliance, for 29 farms this was the third year they were seriously non-compliant. In one case, a Northland farm received four abatement notices and eight infringements notices but was not prosecuted.

A serious non-compliance means that an environmentally damaging activity has either occurred or was likely to occur due to poor practice.

Forest and Bird's freshwater advocate Annabeth Cohen said the lack of enforcement means more pollution was getting into rivers and lakes.

"Too many councils are letting farmers get away with breaking the rules and it's completely unacceptable."

Ms Cohen said dairy effluent could have serious consequences for the environment and her organisation requested the case notes from councils on the non-compliance issued.

According to the report, discharge to land was the largest single category. In instances where discharges were made on 'land', or 'land and water', there could be ponding of effluent on the surface of the soil, which Forest and Bird said could potentially have contaminated the groundwater.

In at least 16 per cent of all serious non-compliance, dairy effluent ponded on land.

Ms Cohen said there were significant inconsistencies and gaps in how regional councils were enforcing the rules around dairy effluent management.

Marie Brown is the policy lead at consultants the Catalyst Group, she has more than a decade of experience in compliance monitoring and enforcement.

She said he thought the report was useful in shining a light on an issue which was front of mind for the public.

"It's really important that councils are open to this kind of analysis and that where there are legitimate critiques, that they take them on the chin."

Dr Brown said there needed to be improvement on the way monitoring and enforcement was reported.

The report gave a score card to the regional councils. Waikato, which has the most dairy farms in the country, received an F.

The council has called the report misleading - although it admits it did provide Forest and Bird with some incorrect data.

The council's resource use director, Chris McLay, said it was very active at monitoring farms and took serious action, and that it was targeting high-risk farms this year.

"That means we won't get around all the properties in the region because many farmers are complying and they don't need to be visited every year, but what we will do, where we find non-compliance, we follow it up, we will be taking enforcement actions."

Ms Cohen said no one was holding the regional councils to account and they need to be reined in.

Earlier this year, Environment Minister David Parker announced $3 million for a unit which would oversee how councils manage consents.

Mr Parker said the unit was being introduced because monitoring and enforcement was variable across the country.

Details of the unit are still being decided.

Source: 1 NEWS



Blenheim schoolboys learning the craft of viticulture at New Zealand Wine School

Five Blenheim high school students are taking part in a new program all about the wine industry - before they're legally allowed to drink.

In a first, the New Zealand Wine School is teaching the teenagers, from Marlborough Boys College, all about the tricks of the trade, from winemaking to machinery operation, Stuff reports.

Unlike a typical school curriculum, the program had the class spending the year making three different wines and was largely self-directed.

"They all prefer it, the mix, and it's easy for them to tag onto other classes because there's only five of them," teacher Rebecca Kane said.

The "school within a school" is sponsored by several institutions in the Marlborough wine industry. 

FIle image of two glasses of white wine.

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Wellington bus passengers may refuse to pay fares in protest at new service

Fed up Wellington bus passengers should consider not paying their fares in protest at the capital's revamped public transport network, a community organiser says.

It's been four weeks since Wellington's public transport system was overhauled, with new routes, new drivers, new fares and a whole raft of new problems.

Initially, the regional council said there were just some teething problems, but since then a host of meetings have been scheduled and a promise by the council that things might change.

More than 100 people packed out the Newtown Community Centre last night at a meeting for commuters to come together and vent.

Mother of three and Newtown resident, Kayte Stuff, said she had not taken the bus since the changes came into effect on 15 July.

"I've got a three-year-old and 18-month twins. You say, 'maybe two changes are okay but three's a bit much' - no way can I take three kids and stand in a bus stop or a hub with a shelter or no shelter, keeping three young children safe while we do a little change-over.

"I would challenge the regional council to think about this in terms of equity and who isn't able to come to public meetings and who can't catch the buses anymore."

Four councillors attended the meeting, to listen.

Go Wellington bus driver Trish Fenaughty said her first week driving under the changes was the most stressed she had ever been.

"I felt like, I need to get [commuters] on, because I know there's a limit on how many buses come through here so everybody was getting on and then I had a 24-year-old faint ... maybe a panic attack. So I'm sorry to those of you who get crammed on."

She said she had to take the afternoon off, during that first week, due to stress.

Event organiser Kara Lipski said she set up the meeting so people could come and share stories and to feel like they were not alone.

She said with the support of bus drivers the public might hold a fare strike.

"The reason why I have suggested the fare strike action is to actually just put [the regional council] on notice that we're not going to go away.

"If we don't see a return to the bus service that we had, then there will be action taken."

The next meeting, hosted by MP Paul Eagle, will be held on 26 August.

Residents at the Newtown Community Centre meeting protesting the new bus service.
Residents at the Newtown Community Centre meeting protesting the new bus service. Source: rnz.co.nz