18 Aug 2014

Council helps with mucky situation

4:33 pm on 18 August 2014

Southland farmers are backing a move by the regional council to allow them to deal with overflowing effluent ponds.

Due to an unusually wet winter, some dairy farmers are facing the risk of effluent getting into waterways.

In response, the Southland Regional Council is allowing farmers to effectively breach their consents by spreading limited amounts of effluent onto their pasture at a time of year when that practice is normally restricted.

dairy farmer with cows

Farmers are allowed to spread limited amounts of effluent on paddocks. Photo: PHOTO NZ

Environment Southland chief executive Rob Phillips says farmers will be allowed to do it without fear of prosecution, provided that they notify it each time and remove only as much liquid as is needed to stop ponds from overflowing during the next fortnight.

Federated Farmers' dairy chairman Allan Baird welcomes the move, as the situation was getting difficult to manage.

"Southland's moved towards large ponds as part of its programme to be sustainable and more conscious of the environment.

"Ninety-day ponds sound like a large structure - and they are, but they're a large surface area so they catch a lot of rainwater and farmers who've got large areas of concrete, a lot of the water is running into these ponds, so a wet winter and most of these ponds are at or near capacity.

"We haven't even really started milking cows and the ponds are already quite full. To be able to put some water out ... and as I said, a lot of it is primarily rainwater because we have had a wet winter, so not that much effluent has mingled with that rainwater so, it's been quite a pragmatic response and I actually applaud the council for taking the approach."

The wet winter has also been making conditions difficult for farmers in Otago.

Federated Farmers' Otago president Stephen Korteweg says while the regional council has been open to approaches from farmers, he would like it to be more proactive.

"It would be helpful if they took a bit of a lead and basically came out and said to farmers we realise the position you're in now and a limited amount of sensible use of putting some of the pond stuff on would be good.

"Because it's probably 90% water, there's not a lot of effluent in it because it's basically just rainwater that's been pouring off the cow yards, as opposed to a strong effluent. It would be a bloody weak brew that's coming off there now."

Mr Korteweg says a drier week is forecast, which will help reduce the pond levels.