October 2, 2008

ES Supports Tougher Line on Polluting Dairy Farms


ENVIRONMENT SOUTHLAND is supporting a judge who has warned southern dairy farmers to clean up their act or face closure.

Environment Court Judge Jeff Smith said during sentencing in the Invercargill District Court last week that if prosecutions of dairy farmers for discharging dairy shed effluent into natural waterways continued it was likely the court would increase fines above $15,000.

He also warned that if compliance did not improve significantly the court may enforce orders preventing farm operations from continuing.

Environment Southland compliance manager Mark Hunter said he was unaware of any farms in New Zealand being ordered to stop operations by a judge because of dirty dairying practices. But he believed the courts had the power to do so.

"It hasn't been tested yet but I would say if he wanted an activity to stop he could order it to stop." Mr Hunter said he supported farm closure for repeat offenders.

"It sounds good to me ... the courts are saying they are sick of these cases coming before them." Environment Southland also supported heftier fines being imposed on offenders, he said.

"Some of the fines might be effective for a salary or wage earner but it's not significant for dairy farmers," he said.

The fines had not increased for quite some time and it was possibly time they were reviewed, he said.

"The large percentage of dairy farmers are compliant. For those that aren't, the fines don't seem to be significant enough at this stage to get them to tidy up their act." That said, there had been an increase in the number of dairy farms in Southland but not a comparable increase in effluent discharge non-compliance, he said.

Many new dairy farms were installing systems able to cope with the effluent. However, some of the older operations needed to upgrade to meet recent requirements of the council, he said.

A Fonterra spokeswoman said the company did not want to comment.

Federated Farmers Southland dairy section chairman Rod Pemberton could not be contacted.

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