13 May 2016

ECan criticised for lack of action over waterways

6:46 am on 13 May 2016

The Canterbury Regional Council is defending its rules and regulations in the face of criticism over the way it deals with stock roaming in waterways.

The only answer was for the government to be stricter on the intensification of dairy farming said Dr Mike Joy.

The only answer was for the government to be stricter on the intensification of dairy farming said Dr Mike Joy. Photo: 123RF

Fish & Game says it has been given statistics under the Official Information Act that show that over five years, there have been 382 complaints of stock in waterways.

In more than half of those cases, the council asked the farmers to promise they would not breach the rules again, and there have been no prosecutions.

The figures show that in 114 cases, council officials did not visit the site where the complaint was made.

Fish & Game said the council took too long to investigate complaints, was reluctant to enforce its own regulations and had not prosecuted anyone in five years.

It said the council, Environment Canterbury (ECan), should create a team to specifically monitor stock access complaints, and for complaints to be responded to within one week.

"It is clear from these findings that ratepayer-funded ECan has failed to adequately protect our streams, rivers and lakes from the negative effects of heavy stock damage," said Fish and Game's North Canterbury chairperson, Trevor Isitt.

"ECan now claim that stock damage in waterways is their top 'compliance' priority yet we see an obvious lack of annual funding and staff to carry out this work in an expedient manner."

However, the council said it would not have made the rules in the first place if it did not intend to enforce them.

"Fish & Game have presented us with an useful report - we have agreed to have a look at it and meet again with them in three weeks to discuss it further. It deserves a considered response," it said in a statement.

At the beginning of the year, cattle owned by the Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias and her businessman husband Hugh Fletcher were seen wading through a High Country lake.

The member of the public who made the complaint, Allan Brown, said he was disappointed not to have had any response from the council since then.