Frustration as 'green stream' complaints flow in around Waikato

Environmental authorities in Waikato are responding to a growing number of complaints about effluent run-off into streams and say hefty fines for two recent prosecutions should serve as a timely reminder for farmers.

A Waikato farming company and a farmer have been convicted and fined $53,440 and $51,750 respectively for unlawfully discharging farm animal effluent into the environment. 

The first case found there had been mismanagement of effluent on two neighbouring dairy farms near Pukekohe in October last year. 

Waikato Regional Council staff found effluent irrigators on both farms had been deliberately disconnected allowing the effluent to pond in large volumes, causing a risk of contaminating groundwater. 

Overflowing and poor quality effluent storage pond on the P Walter Ltd farm near Pukekohe.
Overflowing and poor quality effluent storage pond on the P Walter Ltd farm near Pukekohe. Photo credit: Supplied/Waikato Regional Council

The second of the cases found there had been mismanagement of effluent on a dairy farm at Orini.

It was found that effluent from a farm race had been deliberately scraped into a watercourse and there was large-scale ponding of effluent, posing a risk to groundwater.

The council said the fines were a timely reminder to farmers as there had been a growing number of complaints from members of the public about 'green streams' in recent weeks.

Ponding of effluent posing a risk to groundwater on the Orini farm operated by Allan Crouch.
Ponding of effluent posing a risk to groundwater on the Orini farm operated by Allan Crouch. Photo credit: Supplied/Waikato Regional Council

Each of these complaints had been responded to by the council's incident response team, with staff identifying effluent runoff into waterways as the cause on each occasion. 

The six reported incidents in the past two weeks had been at waterways near Hamilton, Karāpiro, Te Awamutu, Ōtorohanga, Gordonton and Te Pahu. 

Council investigations manager Patrick Lynch said the incidents were all serious and were being investigated. 

"They have all caused an adverse effect on the environment and because of this could also lead to enforcement action. While we appreciate this is a particularly busy time of year for farmers, effluent management has to be a priority," he said.

He said the situation was frustrating for everyone. 

"The rural community and the farming industry expect better from their own. The wider farming industry have worked very hard to reduce their environmental impact through riparian fencing and planting, as well as investment in effluent management infrastructure."  

"Unfortunately there are still some who continue to let everyone down and continue to pollute."

Reports of environmental pollution can be made to the council by calling the 24-hour Freephone 0800 800 401.

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