Dairy farmers are being urged to seek advice about effluent management from accredited experts by Waikato Regional Council following two separate convictions of farmers in Reporoa and Otorohanga last month.
At Rotorua District Court in early-August, Judge Melanie Harland convicted and fined Bella Ridge Farms Limited $41,850 for discharging a large volume of dairy effluent from a Reporoa farm and into Mangatete Stream.
WRC estimated approximately 450m3 of dairy effluent had been lost into the environment in November 2016 – the equivalent of 17 truck-and-trailer units full of effluent. The volume was such that it was detected 8km downstream at Lake Ohakuri.
The prosecution was brought by WRC after being contacted by a member of the public who reported the Mangatete Stream was “flowing green with effluent”.
A subsequent investigation found an effluent irrigation pipe had been disconnected. Effluent had then syphoned from the pipe by virtue of gravity during a 14-hour period, flowed across a short distance of land and into the stream.
WRC investigations and incident response manager Patrick Lynch, says the incident was completely avoidable. “The farmer had invested heavily in attempts to manage his effluent, however, he did not source good advice.
“The system didn’t have the usual safeguards and this discharge was the outcome. We strongly urge farmers to work with accredited dairy effluent designers to ensure their systems are fit for purpose,” says Patrick.
One week later an Otorohanga farmer was convicted and fined a total of $57,000 for discharging dairy effluent into the environment.
In this case, Judge Melanie Harland sentenced farmer Gary Blackler in the Hamilton District Court. Judge Harland noted the Resource Management Act “has been in place for 27 years”, and “simply put, there has been ample time for farmers in this region to get to grips with the rules”.
According to WRC in September 2017 it was alerted by a member of the public to a usually clear stream running green and smelling of effluent. Council incident response staff tracked the contaminated stream some distance to the Blackler property, finding two separate sources of contamination.
An abatement notice was issued to the farmer and a further inspection carried out in November. This inspection also found a significant area of ponded effluent that was a risk to groundwater.
Patrick says the council is very grateful to the person who contacted them with accurate and timely information about the stream.
“This enabled us to respond promptly and track the source of the contamination,” says Patrick.
“WRC takes breaches of the RMA very seriously and will use all of the regulatory tools available to us to bring about positive behaviour change.
“For those few farmers who continue to let their own industry down, this fine sends a very clear message that unlawful effluent discharges into the environment will not be tolerated.”