Monday, August 13, 2018

Turning a blind eye to pollution

The Resource Management Act is our key defence against environmental pollution. But in order to be effective, we need regional councils to enforce it - not just by denying resource consents for polluting activities, but also by ensuring that polluters keep within the terms of their consents. Sadly, where the polluters are dairy farmers, it seems regional councils are reluctant to do their job:

Regional councils are letting dairy farmers get away with breaking their own rules, according to a report just released by Forest and Bird.

The group found that between July 2016 and June 2017, there were 425 cases of serious non-compliance. But despite this, some councils did not take any formal enforcement action such as an infringement notice, an abatement notice or prosecution.

Forest and Bird has compiled official information gathered from all the councils over the 12-month period to illustrate the state of monitoring and enforcement on the dairy sector across the country.

The group said some regional councils were failing even the basics of managing the significant environmental risks posed by dairy effluent.

Of the hundreds of cases of non-compliance, for 29 farms this was the third year they were seriously non-compliant. In one case, a Northland farm received four abatement notices and eight infringements notices but was not prosecuted.

Its the equivalent of the police catching a burglar red-handed multiple times but continually refusing to prosecute. And its an appropriate comparison because violating the RMA is a crime, punishable by up to two years in prison. But apparently farmers are above the law.

Dairy farmers are our worst polluters, and the law needs to be enforced on them. Those not complying with their consents need to be issued with abatement notices or prosecuted, with the provisions allowing for review of a consent applied. Until that happens, until they face actual consequences for their actions which make it unprofitable to pollute, they will continue destroying our rivers and poisoning our soil and groundwater. And that's just not acceptable.