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Published: 2011-10-14 00:00:00

The latest Waikato Regional Council helicopter monitoring flight from last month has confirmed an improving trend indicating an ongoing drop in significant non-compliance with the council’s dairy effluent management permitted activity rules.

However, the monitoring also confirms storage-related issues continue to be important when it comes to significant non-compliance (defined as a discharge of effluent that has either entered water or is at high risk of doing so).

The latest flight – the second of seven for the season – was carried out on 12 September around Huntly and covered 139 randomly selected dairy farms.

Nine per cent of the Huntly properties appeared to be significantly non-compliant with the permitted activity rules. No direct comparison with last year is available as no flight occurred around Huntly last season.

However, the nine per cent and a 10 per cent significant non-compliance result from the season’s first flight around Hamilton in August show an improvement on last season’s 12 per cent average across the region for compliance with permitted activity rules and consents. This 12 per cent average from last year was itself a big gain on the 27 per cent significant non-compliance score from 2009-10.

But the council’s proactive monitoring manager Ross Wightman said undersized sumps and inadequate storage had again been noticeable on some properties, factors which can help lead to inappropriate amounts of effluent being spread on paddocks.

“This is particularly relevant to farms with saturated peat soils, on which surface ponding of effluent occurs, running the risk of it discharging directly to waterways by overland flow.

“On high risk soils more engineered storage solutions may be required, because of the associated construction challenges, to help prevent seepage of effluent to groundwater.”

Mr Wightman advised farmers to seek advice from effluent management systems professionals on the right storage for their individual properties.