Waikato Regional Council says it’s keen to help where it can when it comes to farmers and related agricultural businesses weathering the stresses caused by the current low dairy payout.
These are tough times for many dairy farmers and others and the council recognises clearly the strain this can put on people and finances, the council said in a statement following discussion on the issues by councilors today.
It said council staff are very sensitive to the needs of dairy farmers and related agricultural businesses. This includes how on-farm monitoring related to environmental rule compliance is carried out, expectations over environment-related infrastructure improvements and farmer input into catchment improvement initiatives and agreements.
If effluent management infrastructure is found to be inadequate by monitoring staff, farmers are being given realistic timeframes to make improvements. Also, when farm inspections come across any significant non compliance with environmental rules the council will continue to look at the specific circumstances of each case, including the financial situation farmers face.
It’s recommended farmers proactively contact the council as early as possible if they need advice about compliance or resource consent issues to discuss any problems to be sorted out. The council also encourages farmers to discuss any issues they have with staff who are on their properties for council business purposes.
This week the council’s on-farm monitoring team, which provides advice to farmers on a range of issues as well as doing rule compliance checks, was briefed by the Rural Support Trust. The trust has provided information to the team on signs of stress to look out for and on the best way to safely refer affected farmers on to support services such as the trust. That information is being shared with other council teams who have regular contact with farmers.
Staff had already helped one dairy farmer under stress to get the assistance he needed and taken special considerations into account in dealing with other farmers.
Meanwhile, meetings are being held between council staff, dairy companies and other farming organisations on an ongoing basis to help identify any problem areas for farmers and, where possible, to get a common approach for resolving things.
The council is not going ahead with next year’s annual effluent expo due to the likely lack of investment opportunities for effluent system upgrades at this time.
Farmers are also able to utilise options for helping them manage regional council rates payments. Information on those options is available from the council’s rates team on 0800 800 401. For example, rate payments can be spread over 12 months without penalty.
More information on council rules relating to farming is available at www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/Community/Your-community/For-Farmers/