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Why Are We Still Debating Dairy Pollution?

This article from the 'NZ Farmer' discloses an ambivalent attitude towards the evident failure to adequately deal with dairy pollution within the Waikato area. I acknowledge that I have harped on about this issue over the last five years, but there is no escaping facts, and those elucidated by Massey's Dr Mike Joy are simply inescapable. The response from the Feds is almost pathetic by comparison.

Here are the major points from the article written by Elton Rikihana Smallman that may not truely reflect the view of the Feds normally expected in The 'NZ Farmer'

"Despite receiving 150 complaints about farmers sullying waterways in the past few years, the Waikato Regional Council has prosecuted no one. The council blames poor-quality information and delays in laying complaints, which hamper investigations. 

But there are other reasons, too, according to Massey University freshwater ecologist Mike Joy. The streams that really count don't have to be fenced at all, says Dr Mike Joy. "It's expensive, it costs lawyers and all that kind of stuff, so they much prefer this nice, please get your stock out of the stream approach," Joy said.

Figures released under the Local Government Official Information and Meeting Act show Waikato Regional Council received 150 complaints between 2011 and 2015.The complaints resulted in 45 site visits, 11 abatement notices and no prosecutions.

Council receives about 1400 complaints each year about potential breaches to the Resource Management Act, said council's statutory processes adviser Catherine Robinson. But many can't be "meaningfully investigated" by staff due to insufficient information.

In October 2014, the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord said 96 per cent of the waterways on dairy farms were protected by fences. But Joy said there should be a total ban on stock in waterways.

Only the big waterways are fenced and most farms don't have large rivers flowing though them, he said. The smaller streams - the ones that "really count" - aren't required to be fenced at all. "It is just stupid. It's the wrong way around," and "It's such a con," Joy said. 

Between 2011 and 2012, the number of complaints to council nearly tripled from 11 to 29. The number of complaints in 2013 was 31, there were 45 in 2014 and 34 complaints in 2015. The threshold for prosecution is very high, said Waikato Regional Council investigations manager Patrick Lynch.

“Investigators look at a list of criteria including the potential effects on a waterway, the actual effects, profit gained by the pollution and repeat offending. But on its own, stock walking or standing in a stream is not illegal.”

"That's unhelpful," Lynch said. "There are water courses around the Waikato where, by law, currently, they don't have to be excluded.""

As Joy implies, the current rules are totally farmer oriented, designed to shield them from effective enforcement action while projecting a public image of compliance and concern. To quote Joy – it is all “such a con.”

Pretty revealing, I would say, and indicative of the need for a far stronger public reaction to what still constitutes the most water polluted, and one of the most farmer dominated Regional Councils in the country.





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