Environment Canterbury today reported less serious non-compliance with resource consent conditions in the 2014-15 dairy season than in the previous year, but higher rates of minor non-compliance.
Marty Mortiaux, Regional Manager Monitoring and Compliance, said the season was a very challenging one for farmers facing reduced payouts and drought conditions.
“Dairying has been growing in Canterbury and it is very important for the economy,” Mr Mortiaux said. “We now have 1149 farms compared with 632 10 years ago. The average dairy herd size in Canterbury is larger than elsewhere in New Zealand – 912 compared with the national average of 413. The increase in dairying is part of a more widespread increase in farming intensification.
“Environment Canterbury’s role is to make sure this intensification does not unduly impact on water quality throughout the region,” Mr Mortiaux said.
“Our monitoring of dairy farms has become much more than just assessing compliance with consent conditions. It is an essential part of implementing the Canterbury Water Management Strategy.
“We are increasingly working alongside farmers and the industry to help improve environmental performance on farm while at the same time maintaining or improving profitability.
“Last season we looked to meet our obligation to monitor compliance with dairy effluent discharge consents while at the same time working with farmers dealing with the season’s many challenges.”
Environment Canterbury has changed its monitoring programme. “In 2014 -2015 we moved away from monitoring every dairy farm in the region at least once a year towards a more targeted regime based on risk criteria,” Marty Mortiaux said.
“During the 2014-2015 year, 976 of 1149 dairy farms were actively monitored at least once -85% of all farms. Because the farms that were not monitored were assessed as being lower risk, year-on-year results are no longer directly comparable.
“The rate of compliance in respect of farms that were monitored declined compared with last season (64%; 72.5% in 2013-2014). However, the rate of significant non-compliance or enforcement action was lower (6.5%; 8.5% in 2013-2014).”
There was an increase in the number of abatement notices compared with previous years, but the number of incidents warranting infringement notices decreased and there were no serious incidents that resulted in charges being laid in court (prosecutions).
Analysis of compliance by Canterbury Water Management Strategy zone showed the highest levels of compliance were in Christchurch-West Melton (100%), Kaikōura (87%), Ashburton (75%) and Hurunui-Waiau (73%). The lowest were in Upper Waitaki (one out of four farms compliant – 25%), Orari–Opihi–Pareora (48% compliant) and Lower Waitaki (54%).
“Compliance monitoring site inspections identified several common issues,” Mr Mortiaux said. “Exceedance of application depth and/or ponding of dairy effluent were among the most common reasons for non-compliance, although the levels of these non-compliances were lower than in previous seasons.
“Some of the other main non-compliances were exceeding the undiluted volumes of dairy effluent, overflow from storage ponds, and storage ponds not meeting requirements. Discharge of dairy effluent within buffer zones was found to a lesser extent than in previous seasons and there was only one instance of a direct discharge to water.”
Resource Management Officers also recognised many good practices on dairy farms during the monitoring season, Mr Mortiaux said. “Many farm owners or managers went beyond their consented conditions to improve their environmental performance. Environment Canterbury appreciates the ongoing efforts and co-operation of these farmers.”
Where there was significant non-compliance or enforcement action, follow-up site inspections were conducted. “Most dairy farms were compliant with the conditions of their resource consent or improved their performance at that follow-up inspection. Those that did not will be a priority for monitoring in the 2015–2016 season.
“Environment Canterbury will continue with this targeted regime in the 2015-2016 season as well as continuing to work with farmers and the dairy industry to take initiatives and improve compliance throughout Canterbury.
“Farm environment planning will be a crucial aspect of this work. Environment Canterbury is gearing up to get closer to the farm gate in all its activities relating to land use and environmental protection,” Marty Mortiaux concluded.
The 2014-2015 report is available at http://ecan.govt.nz/publications/Plans/dairy-report-1015.pdf
Canterbury Water Management Strategy
The Canterbury Water Management Strategy and the regulatory and non-regulatory actions that flow from it deal with the issues arising from land use intensification in a number of ways.
Several of the targets in the Canterbury Water Management Strategy focus directly or indirectly on the impacts of changing land use. Setting environmental limits is one of these. The Land & Water Regional Plan, which provides the framework for delivery of the community’s aspirations for water management, focuses on limiting nutrient outputs from different farming activities.