Southland kindergarten force to close due to winter grazing runoff

An abatement notice has been issued to ensure the farmer stops the runoff onto the property immediately.
An abatement notice has been issued to ensure the farmer stops the runoff onto the property immediately. Photo credit: Supplied/Environment Southland

A Southland kindergarten has been forced to close after runoff from a nearby farm washed through the grounds.

Environment Southland said a compliance team was called to the incident this week where winter grazing runoff affected the Longbush Kindergarten, near Invercargill. 

The issue of winter grazing has been under the spotlight after photos of mudbound cows in Southland and Otago were released by environmentalist Angus Robson.

One of the photos of mudbound cows.
One of the photos of mudbound cows. Photo credit: Supplied/Angus Robson.

The Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor has ordered the establishment of a winter grazing taskforce, calling images of the practice unacceptable to him.

Environment Southland chief executive, Rob Phillips said he continued to be concerned at some of the intensive winter grazing practice in Southland, particularly as farmers now deal with the recent wet weather.

"Our staff have been out to the kindergarten and, although there is no evidence of waterway contamination, mud and sediment has washed through the grounds of the facility from an adjoining paddock," he said.

The incident follows the announcement of a taskforce looking into winter grazing by the Agriculture Minister.
The incident follows the announcement of a taskforce looking into winter grazing by the Agriculture Minister. Photo credit: Supplied/Angus Robson.

He said Environment Southland was working with the kindergarten and the farm manager to resolve the situation and a full investigation was underway. 

An abatement notice had also been issued to ensure the farmer stops the runoff onto the property immediately.

However, the incident has prompted a warning to farmers that they must do better.

"Farmers need to understand that they must use good management practice for all winter grazing, including using portable water troughs and back fences to prevent cows going back into already grazed areas, as well as carefully managing critical source areas," said Phillips.

"It is simply unacceptable for runoff to impact on neighbours or waterways, and it is the farmers' responsibility to ensure this does not happen."

He said as part of a programme to improve winter grazing and deal with those who are breaching the rules, a compliance team was currently carrying out aerial monitoring and on-the-ground inspections of grazing properties. 

"We have a range of enforcement options available to us as required."

"It is clear some farmers need to step up and improve their practice, and those who are demonstrating good practice, need to support and encourage their peers to do the same."

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