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.