17 Jun 2014

Farmers irritated by aerial checks

9:01 am on 17 June 2014

Waikato Regional Council has called a halt to helicopter surveillance of farm effluent compliance, and Federated Farmers is hoping it's a permanent thing.

The council has stopped the flights, which look for effluent run-off into waterways, until it carries out a review of farm monitoring.

Waikato Federated Farmers presiden Chris Lewis said farmers supported the council in its bid to stop pollution but believed there was a better way of going about it.

"What farmers prefer is the one-on-one contact with an appointment time," Mr Lewis said.

"They are more than willing to show the regional council around their farm and if anything is found that's not 100 percent right, discuss it on the spot and discuss a plan on how to put it right."

Farmers had found the helicopter checks stressful and intrusive - but that did not mean they had something to hide, he said.

"Please don't label the vast majority of farmers who do a great job as criminals or environmental terrorists."

Helicopter shadow.

Photo: PHOTO NZ

Meanwhile, a report from council compliance and education manager Rob Dragten said having adequate storage to stop effluent being sprayed on to pasture at the wrong time of year was starting to become the new norm for Waikato dairy farmers.

Compliance with regional effluent rules in the early 2000s was low, with many effluent management systems inadequate to prevent contamination of waterways.

But there had been substantial progress in the past 10 years, and it was rare to see "blatant, long-standing breaches" of the type which could cause pollution of waterways and groundwater, Mr Dragten said.