Showing posts with label Dirty Dairying. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dirty Dairying. Show all posts

Friday, August 29, 2014

Shouldn't this farmer be prosecuted for bribery?

The Waikato Regional Council, in reporting on the fine handed down to a polluting farmer, also has some disturbing news:

During the course of the Waikato Regional Council inspections that led to the prosecution, Bilkar Singh, a director of B & V Singh Limited, asked the inspecting officers not to report the matter to their supervisors and to take water samples in a manner that would not show any environmental effect.

Repeated comments such as “how much to make it go away” were made by Mr Singh to the two officers.

This appears to violate s105(2) of the Crimes Act:
Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years who corruptly gives or offers or agrees to give any bribe to any person with intent to influence any official in respect of any act or omission by him or her in his or her official capacity.

[Emphasis added]

This appears to be open and shut. He repeatedly offered a bribe in an attempt to influence officials. And he should be prosecuted and jailed for it. Eradicating corruption means not just making sure officials don't accept bribes, but also that corrupt people don't offer them.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How to make farmers clean up their act

Order them to stop milking until they've fixed their effluent problems:

A Thames farming company has been hit with a $47,000 fine and ordered to stop milking until it fixed the overflowing effluent system at its Kopu farm.

The order came from Judge Jeff Smith in sentencing Tuitahi Farms Limited in a decision released from the Auckland District Court last week.

The company was convicted on four environmental offences under the Resource Management Act and fined $47,250 for offending, which the judge said had "long term and insidious" effects.

Tuitahi Farms has since upgraded its effluent system and has resumed milking.

Which tells us that this is an effective tactic for enforcing compliance. Of course, there's still the wider problem that monitoring is weak (and the council which caught this farm has recently suspended their aerial monitoring programme) and prosecutions rare - but if they notice you're polluting and decide to take it to court, there's at least an effective ambulance at the bottom of that cliff.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

So much for Ruataniwha

Yesterday, the Hawkes Bay Regional Coucil voted to invest $80 million in the Ruataniwha dam. Today, the board of inquiry upheld its resource consent decisions, effectively shitcanning the project:

The Board of Inquiry into the Ruataniwha Dam has upheld strict conditions which the Hawke's Bay Regional Council has said makes the $600 million water storage project unworkable.

The board has just issued its final decision, confirming nitrogen leaching levels from agriculture at 0.8 milligrams per litre, which would ensure the ability of rivers to sustain life.

The council has acknowledged the Tukituki River already significantly exceeds that limit, and it appears that would leave no room to further intensify agriculture in the catchment.

And that, hopefully, is that. Or will HBRC and the farmers demand National pass a law under urgency to allow them to pillage this river, just as they're doing for the West Coast forests?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Farmers are poor sensitive little souls

Water quality is a major issue at the moment, with dairy farmers poisoning our lakes, rivers and streams with their runoff. So I was surprised yesterday to learn that the Waikato Regional Council was cancelling airborne spot checks on water pollution. I was even more surprised to hear the reason: because the flights stressed farmers:

Helicopter flights checking dairy farmers' effluent compliance in Waikato have been temporarily grounded because they're causing stress to farmers.

Waikato Regional Council has halted the flights, which were used to look for effluent running into waterways, while it carries out a review of the use of helicopters for monitoring farmers.

Federated Farmers and the Dairy Women's Network made presentations to the council last week saying the flights could be stressful to farmers and they spoke of high suicide rates in rural areas.

I expect burglars and murderers also find the fear of getting caught stressful, but we don't view that as a reason to stop trying to catch them. We should treat environmental criminals the same. These are public waterways which are being polluted, and the perpetrators can be identified from public airspace and targeted for a followup check. That seems to be a sensible and effective means of enforcement.

(Meanwhile, I'm wondering: if Regional Councils are too afraid to do this, can environmental groups do it? It seems to be a job perfectly suited for an airborne drone)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

How China is dealing with farm pollution

Banning farms near rivers:

The Chinese government is considering moving farming away from major rivers in the country saying the industry's impact on the environment in these areas is just too great.

A senior Chinese government official and agricultural expert, Chen Xiwen, told a meeting at the Beehive in Wellington this week that while agricultural productivity has been rising, China faces a number of hurdles in terms of producing its own food.

Mr Chen said the Chinese government is considering banning or restricting farming along China's major rivers - as the effects of pollution are too severe.

He said farming was a major cause of pollution and the pollution downstream effect was particularly exaggerated.

That's one way of fixing it. Hopefully we'll act early enough to avoid such drastic measures.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

National fails to protect our rivers

Back in November, the government released draft guidelines setting "bottom lines" for water quality in our lakes, rivers and streams. But according to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, they're utterly inadequate:

Current proposals for freshwater management are not adequate for protecting water quality to even current levels in New Zealand, says Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright.

Dr Wright today released her submission on the Government’s proposed National Objectives Framework (NOF) and amendments to the National Policy Statement (NPS) for Freshwater Management (2011).

Without changes, Dr Wright says that there is little in the NOF that would prevent the 2020 scenario in her recent report becoming reality.

That scenario saw dairy expansion polluting our waterways, rendering them unsuitable for recreation or drinking. Stopping that and protecting our right to swim should be the chief goal of freshwater policy. Instead, National has written a licence to pollute which will allow councils to "manage" water to much lower quality than it is at present, while leaving key dairy pollutants entirely unmanaged. Which is what happens when farmers control your government and set your environmental policy.

The PCE's full submission is here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Time to ban farm animals from our rivers

On Monday the Otago Regional Council began errecting warning signs at swimming spots along the Taieri River after tests showed faecal contamination at almost three times the safe limit. The source of the contamination? Farm animals. In response, the Greens are arguing that it is time to ban them from our rivers:

Green Party water spokesperson Eugenie Sage said it was unacceptable that parts of the river next to the Central Otago Rail Trail were unfit for swimming.

"Good farmers make sure stock are excluded from waterways. Where you've got this faecal contamination, it may be because some farmers are allowing their stock access to the river," she said.

"It's fundamental that we have rivers and streams which are free of stock but we don't have any national rules that require that. We need them."

Its a good idea, and long past time. Voluntary measures to get farmers to behave responsibly have failed (in part because farmers lie about their level of compliance); time for stronger measures.

Of course, if farming was treated like any other polluting activity and required resource consent under the RMA, rather than having a special exception, then the fencing of waterways could simply be imposed as a standard condition of consent (and non-compliance dealt with under an established legal regime of fines, abatement notices, and ultimately cancellation).

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Dirty dairying and moral culpability

Gareth Morgan and Geoff Simmons have a piece on dirty dairying in the Herald today. The first of two parts, it looks at the economic reasons why farmers are destroying our rivers. And this boils down to two things: no taxation on capital gains, which encourages dairy conversions so farmers can profit from the increase in land prices, and a whopping externality around pollution, which sees farmers able to pump shit into our rivers without paying a cent. Combined, these mean massive effective subsidies for environmental destruction. So much for our "subsidy-free" dairy industry.

But then there's this bit:

Let's be clear up front; we aren't blaming the farmers. Like the bankers in the GFC they are just responding to the incentives the market presents them.

Sorry, but "responding to market incentives" is not a moral free pass. If I offer you $100 to kill someone, you're still a murderer if you take it, no matter how much you plead about "market incentives'. And the same is true of bankers and farmers. Obviously we should fix the incentive structure, so that it discourages selfish, immoral behaviour - but that doesn't make people who follow the incentives any less selfish or immoral. If farmers get rich by taking taxpayer subsidies to pollute our rivers and destroy our environment, they fully deserve our moral opprobrium and condemnation.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dairy will destroy our waterways

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment released a major report today on Water quality in New Zealand: Land use and nutrient pollution. The core finding? Continued dairy expansion will pollute our waterways, rendering them unusable for recreation or drinking:

Dr Jan Wright said the conversion of beef and sheep farming to dairy farming land had increased nutrient loads on waterways.

''It is almost inevitable that without significantly more intervention, we will continue to see an on-going deterioration in water quality in many catchments across the country, particularly in Canterbury and Southland,'' she said.

''Unfortunately, this investigation has shown the clear link between expanding dairy farming and increasing stress on water quality. Even with best practice mitigation, the large-scale conversion of more land to dairy farming will generally result in more degraded fresh water.''

But its not just about rivers - nitrogen runoff pollutes groundwater, which many of us rely on for drinking. Canterbury's dairy boom has already made some wells unusable, and that trend is only going to continue.

The vested farming interests such as IrrigationNZ are already spreading FUD, but the blunt fact is that "industry best practice" isn't enough. We can't just keep on letting people stick more cows on the land, shitting out more nitrogen into our rivers and groundwater. If we want rivers that are safe to swim in, if we want water that is safe to drink, then we need to stop that process. And that means stocking limits and an overall cap on dairy numbers, almost certainly set well below what we have at present in most areas.

The full report and appendices is here.

Monday, October 21, 2013


Great: our regional councils are warning dairy farmers before inspecting their RMA compliance:

Inspectors looking for evidence of dirty dairying are giving farmers up to three days warning of an inspection - which critics say is like police telling motorists where drink-drive checkpoints will be.

Information obtained from regional councils and unitary authorities by The Dominion Post under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act shows that eight of the 17 councils give farmers at least 24 hours forewarning of inspections.

Fish & Game chief executive Bryce Johnson says this makes "an absolute nonsense" of monitoring.

"It's akin to police letting drivers know where and when they will be setting up drink-driving checkpoints."

My local council, Horizons, is one of those that warns farmers. Strangely, their compliance rating is 93%. what is it when the farmers aren't warned and don't have time to clean up and switch the pipes around? Sadly, we'll never know - but the state of the regions rivers kindof speaks for itself.

This policy is simply insanity. Spot-checks must be exactly that: unannounced, to see what the real compliance situation is. Otherwise they're just a bad joke, a PR exercise for the public designed to cover up for the dirty status quo. And that's just not acceptable.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Justice for dirty dairying

Cleaning up the dairy industry requires prosecutions, and it requires significant fines to make dirty practices economicly unviable. Finally, we're seeing some progress on that:

The Auckland District Court on Tuesday fined Fenwick Farms $114,000 after it admitted pumping dairy shed effluent straight into a stream which feeds the Waikato River.

A former employee of the farmer thinks the heavy fine was justified - and that it should have been higher.

"Should be paying more for the amount of effluent on it. He knew what he was doing. There was no remorse about it. The only remorse he's got is probably getting a fine, and that's it," the former employee said.

Its a record fine for the Waikato region, and almost 2.5 times the previous record. Which tells us that the courts are losing their patience with this as well, and recognising the damage it causes, both to the environment and the dairy industry. Even Federated Farmers supports the fine - which tells us we might just be on the verge of the culture shift we need.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Taranaki's dirty council

This is appalling: the Tarankai Regional Council still lets dairy farmers discharge their cowshit directly to waterways:

A leading freshwater scientist has expressed surprise that Taranaki farmers are still discharging treated effluent into waterways.

The New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society president Waikato University Professor David Hamilton said many other regional councils prosecute anyone who discharges into waterways.

"I'd have thought that the enormous efforts that have gone into protecting waterways through riparian planting would have been complemented by land-based effluent applications to try and reduce the impact from those oxidation ponds."

Half of the region's farmers, about 900, discharge treated effluent into streams and waterways.

As part of the review of its freshwater plan the Taranaki Regional Council is looking at requiring farmers to discharge on to land unless given permission by the council in certain weather conditions.

By comparison, the Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council apparently has only two such discharge permits, and every month or so I read a story about someone being fined for taking insufficient care with their shit and letting it overflow.

This is not how a modern council should be taking care of its environment. But as Rachel Stewart points out, the council and councillors are deeply conflicted on the subject. Its chair, David MacLeod, is on Fonterra's board of directors, and the council has invested substantially in Fonterra bonds, giving them a direct financial interest in pollution.

This simply isn't good enough. Regional Councils have a statutory duty under the Resource Management Act to sustainably manage their waterways. Taranaki Regional Council isn't doing this. It needs to clean its act up, and remove those conflicts of interest, so that people can have confidence in it as an environmental regulator.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Gareth Morgan on dirty farmers

Gareth Morgan takes a blast today at polluting farmers - and at Federated Farmers for protecting them. Talking about the recent Environment Court victory over the Horizons Regional Council One Plan, he notes:

The vast majority of farmers are environmentally responsible and many are passionate about not despoiling waterways in any way. This is a victory for them and round condemnation of the ignorant rump in that fraternity who arrogantly think they have some sort of birthright to generate wealth for themselves off the back of environmental destruction.

The requirement to restrict excessive runoff of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous is no different to requiring a manufacturer to limit the polluting consequences of any process. Nature has an amazing ability to absorb what we throw at her but it certainly isn’t infinite.

Further, the natural injustice that arises when one person’s economic advantage is secured at the expense of damaging the property of others, is one too often government’s turn a blind eye to.

All of which makes the indignant reaction of Federated Farmers to the Environment Court decision disappointing, reminiscent of the dark days when the outfit was led by ACT myopic, Don Nicholson. I thought this lobby group had grown up a bit under Bruce Wills. It needs to.

He goes on to call Federated Farmers "chief apologist for... a retarded attitude", and call for progressive farmers to leave and form their own lobby group to avoid "being tarred with the brush of environmental retards". And he's right. If farmers are as clean as they say, let them prove it. Until then, they'll continue to be judged by the words of their elected spokesmen.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

20% Pure New Zealand

A couple of years ago, Tourism New Zealand started the 100% Pure New Zealand campaign, marketing the country to tourists on the basis of our environmental record. Meanwhile, a report on our beaches and rivers has found that only 20% of our rivers are safe to swim at:

The Ministry for the Environment's latest report card - issued weeks before summer weather sends Kiwis flocking to the water - has left opposition parties questioning New Zealand's 100 per cent pure brand.

The results showed water quality was poor or very poor at 52 per cent of monitored river sites.

A further 28 per cent were graded "fair" - with a risk of illness for those swimming there.

Only 20 per cent of monitored river recreation sites were graded good or very good.

Beaches did better, with 60% rated as "good" or "very good". But its still an appalling indictment on our environmental record, and on the government which has allowed this deterioration to happen. And it naturally damages our tourism, as well as our health.

As for the cause, the fact that the problem is with rivers and not beaches points the finger firmly at farmers. They're destroying the country - and our tourism industry - for their own profits, externalising their costs in the form of pollution. Its long past time they were forced to clean their act up.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

A victory for clean rivers

The Environment Court yesterday delivered its verdict on the Horizons Regional Council One Plan, upholding and strenghening requirements for nutrient management plans. Good. The Manawatu is one of the most polluted rivers in New Zealand, which smells of burnt sheep and faeces. And the reason for that is farmers, who overuse fertiliser, overstock their land, and funnel all their waste into the river. The nutrient plans will stop that, by requiring farmers to gain resource consent for their diffuse discharge. Naturally, they're going feral over it, threatening to close down or go overseas. To which the response is again "good". If dirty farmers go out of business, they will be replaced by clean ones. And that can only be beneficial to our environment and our economy.

But this doesn't just help the Manawatu; the precedent will allow other regional councils to impose similar requirements to clean up their waterways. They question now is whether they will take up the opportunity, or continue to support lazy farming standards and pollution.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Dealing with dirty dairying

It looks like the courts are finally losing patience with polluting farmers, with the Environment Courthanding down a record fine of $90,000 for dirty dairying:

The company, White Gold Ltd, had resource consent permitting discharge of dairy effluent on to the land, but members of the public reported effluent flowing into drains that ultimately went into Lake Ellesmere.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) found about 45,000 litres of diluted dairy effluent was discharged during a three-day period in 2010, which resulted in extreme saturation of the land and a nearly 29,000-square-metre effluent pond, including up to 10 centimetres of effluent solids on the ground.

The fine is on top of the $20,000 fine and 260 hours' community service the farm manager received for the same offences late last year.

The indulgent attitude from the courts and local authorities over the past decade clearly hasn't worked, and provided farmers with no incentive to clean up their act. Now they're on notice: stop polluting, or be fined into bankruptcy. Hopefully they'll get the message.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The scale of dirty dairying

The Dominion-Post this morning has some scary figures on the scale of dirty dairying in this country:

Figures obtained from the 17 regional councils and unitary authorities reveal that since July 1, 2008, there have been 151 prosecutions involving more than 300 charges against 198 companies or individuals for unlawful discharges of dairy effluent affecting land or water.


Environment Court-imposed fines collected from offending parties totalled at least $3,260,825.

A further 13 individuals have received community work sentences totalling 1650 hours. Two received sentences of community detention of three and six months.

For lesser offences involving dairy effluent discharges, councils have issued 1698 abatement notices and 1564 infringement notices.

The scary thing is that this is only a fraction of the problem. As the Greens point out, 90% of pollution from dirty dairying comes from discharges direct to the soil (in English, that's cows shitting and pissing in their paddocks). This overloads the soil, and the excess nutrient plume heads straight for the nearest waterway.

While cracking down on dairy shed effluent is admirable and necessary, if we want to solve this problem, we need to limit those direct discharges, which means capping cow numbers, setting maximum stocking levels, and limiting fertiliser use. They've done that around Lake Taupo, and reduced nitrogen runoff into the lake as a result. Now that regime needs to be extended across the entire country.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Southland acts on dairy farming

Southland has a problem. Dirty dairying has produced a tide of cowshit, tainting Invercargill's water supply and threatening the internationally protected Waituna Lagoon. The good news is that Environment Southland has stepped up to solve the problem, by requiring all new dairy farms to have resource consent. Farmers, of course are outraged.

Its a good solution, which will limit the growth of the problem, but at the same time, its not enough. The core problem in Southland is that there are too many cows, producing too much shit. Now that its curbed future growth, Environment Southland needs to work on reducing cow numbers, and on making farmers mitigate the damage they do by fencing waterways, by riparian planting, and most of all by reducing stocking rates. And other councils need to follow their lead. This is a nationwide problem, which affects us all. Farmers are poisoning drinking water and polluting rivers in Canterbury, in Manawatu, and the Waikato. Its time they were forced to clean up their act everywhere, not just in Southland.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Guarding the rivers

For the last eighteen months, Millan Ruka has been patrolling Northland's rivers, photographing dirty dairying and forwarding the evidence to the local council, Fonterra, and the media in an effort to protect the environment. Now, the idea has gone national, with 40 people gathering last night in Wellington to form a nationwide group to hold farmers to account for their pollution:

Farmers who graze animals beside rivers and streams are the target of a new group formed to patrol New Zealand's waterways.

The inaugural meeting of the group, which has yet to be named, attracted 40 supporters in Wellington at the weekend.

They heard from Northland river paddler Millan Ruka, who has formed Environmental River Patrol Aotearoa, and Wairarapa small block holder Grant Muir.

Further meetings will be held around the country to form regional groups to adopt and patrol rivers.

This is a good idea. Farmers get away with this shit because its not documented, and so Fonterra - which buys their milk - and councils - which should prosecute them - can look the other way. But putting hard evidence before them makes it their problem, and will hopefully encourage them to take action to prevent and punish it. Obviously, preventing is better; I'd like to see all waterways fenced and planted to prevent them being fouled by wandering livestock. But we've already seen that farmers are reluctant to do this voluntarily (or even when required by Fonterra; they simply lie instead), so it may require a few prosecutions pour encourager les autres.

Friday, March 16, 2012

How to deal with dirty dairying

A pair of Northland farmers have been fined almost $70,000 for dirty dairying:

Mark Allen Stanaway and his wife Kylie Wendy Stanaway were sentenced recently in Whangarei after they had earlier pleaded guilty to a combined total of 16 charges.

Each had faced eight separate charges relating to dairy effluent discharges, a silage leachate discharge and breaching an abatement notice.


The offending took place between 22 August and 28 September 2009 and had been “deliberate, or if not deliberate, occasioned by a real want of care, associated with large plural discharges, and exposing a disregard for effects on the environment”.

This wasn't a minor breach; as a result of these polluters' overstocking and failure to manage their waste, they polluted the local streams and the Kaipara Harbour with cowshit. Then, when confronted with it, they tried to blame their farm manager instead. Now, they're pleading poverty over the fines - but if it means they go bankrupt and have to get out of the dairying business, then it will be a win for the environment.