10 Nov 2011

Judge questions using irrigators to spread effluent

5:15 pm on 10 November 2011

A district court judge has questioned the reliability of irrigation machines for spreading dairy shed effluent onto farm pastures.

Judge Jeff Smith made the comments in Tauranga District Court while sentencing a Bay of Plenty dairy farmer for allowing effluent to be discharged near a waterway.

Warneford Farms Ltd was fined $26,000 for breaching the Resource Management Act. The Bay of Plenty Regional Council had laid charges after effluent discharged onto land by an irrigator ended up in a waterway.

Judge Smith dismissed a suggestion that the effluent breach was a case of bad luck. Given the inherent unreliability of irrigators, he said, it's clear that either constant vigilance is required or modern tracking and control systems must be utilised.

Otherwise, he said, a far more reliable method of disposal should be adopted.

"It appears to me that the continual use of irrigators has been seen as a cheap option to dispose of waste, rather than to utilise that as a form of nutrient to benefit the farm," Judge Smith said.

"That attitude needs to change, and unfortunately where a particular company or individual breaches the act, that gives the court an opportunity to effect that change."

Judge Smith also fined another Bay of Plenty dairy farmer - Allan Titchmarsh of Kaituna Pastoral Farms - more than $24,000 for breaching an abatement notice relating to effluent discharge.