13 August 2018
Forest and Bird report ‘misleading’
Waikato Regional Council is disappointed with a Forest and Bird report regarding compliance monitoring and enforcement
in the dairy sector in the 2016/17 dairy season.
The report released today contains information the council believes is outdated, inaccurate and misleading for the state
of compliance and enforcement in the Waikato region two years ago.
Council staff are concerned that Forest and Bird has not sought to check data and information they have received from
various sources regarding the Waikato region. “It is apparent there has been no peer review of the report from anybody
experienced in compliance, monitoring and enforcement of the Resource Management Act,” said resource use director, Dr
Waikato staff acknowledge that prosecution data given to Forest and Bird for the report was incorrect in stating no
prosecutions had occurred over that season. In fact, council took more than 180 enforcement actions for breaches of the
RMA on dairy farms in 2016/17, including four prosecutions – the third highest number in the country that year.
“While no-one likes to be rated poorly, I am confident we are doing a good job. The Waikato farming sector is well aware
that when we find non-compliance, we hold people to account. Only in the past week a Waikato farming company was
convicted and fined $41,000 for environmental breaches. That is a clear message in anyone’s books,” said Dr McLay.
“The report is accurate in identifying that we have the largest number of dairy farms in the country. We have a very
proactive team who monitor these farms and another team who responds to complaints from members of the public about poor
farming practice. In an ideal world we would inspect every farm every year, however that would be a huge burden on
ratepayers of the Waikato.”
The report was critical of the council using announced visits two years ago. However, announced visits enabled staff to
meet one-on-one with farmers to discuss their farm systems and other on farm matters, including minor earthworks, the
Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora plan change and water consents.
“We are at a place now where a significant portion of the farming population have or are attempting to improve their
systems, and working with them one-on-one has helped,” Dr McLay said.
In June this year, the council announced it was adopting a more risk-based monitoring programme, combining one-on-one
site visits of high risk farms with aerial inspections which could include using satellite imagery, drones, fixed wing
aircraft or helicopters.
“There are some farmers who will not comply without us using other tools at our discretion,” said farming services
manager, Nicole Botherway.
“Our new way of monitoring has only been in place for just over a month, and it is targeting high risk farms. That means
it’s not surprising we’re picking up higher levels of non-compliance than we were previously, but it’s too soon to tell
if this trend will continue,” Ms Botherway said.
The Forest and Bird report does not consider changes the council has made since the 2016/17 dairy season, making their
findings and recommendations outdated, the council said.
The council suggests the public consider the deficiencies of the report relating to the Waikato region and wider
regional sector and has suggested Forest and Bird reconsider the methodology in their review of compliance, monitoring
Below are the enforcement actions that have been taken by Waikato Regional Council over the last three years, specific
to breaches of the RMA on dairy farms.
Enforcement action2015/162016/172017/18Formal warning55111107Infringement notice172640Abatement notice103933Prosecutions346