Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Dirty dairying continues in Canterbury

So much for New Zealand's "clean and green" image: Environment Canterbury's annual monitoring report into dairy farm effluent [PDF] shows that fewer than half the dairy farms in Canterbury are complying with their resource consents governing effluent discharge. In English, this means they're letting the shit from their cows overflow, or dumping it straight into paddocks, where it will inevitably make its way into aquifers or local waterways. And the problem is getting worse:

Only 39.6% of dairy farms fully complied with their effluent discharge consents, says ECan's annual report on dairy shed monitoring released yesterday, compared with 61% three years earlier.
Most of the breaches were minor, however there is a hard core of 18% of farms which seriously breach their conditions and pose a real danger to the environment. And it's not a case of the conditions being too tough - most cases of non-compliance were easily avoidable. Instead, we're looking at simple contempt for the law by people who just don't give a damn. Environment Canterbury must bear some of the blame here; they've allowd this situation to go on for years, and rather than forcing farmers to comply by threatening to withdraw their consents, have simply issued infringement or abatement notices with a token $750 fine. This is often less than the cost of cleanup, and the message it sends is clear: pollution is profitable.

This cannot be allowed to continue. If pollution is profitable, then it must be made unprofitable so that polluters clean their act up. The RMA provides for this, with severe criminal penalties for polluters, including jail time and fines of up to $200,000, plus $10,000 for every day offending continues. Environment Canterbury should be using those provisions against persistent offenders. And if they refuse to, I'd suggest using the opportunity presented bythe current local body elections to de-elect them and replace them with people who will.