Environment Court Enforcement Order Timely Warning for Dairy Farmers
A recent enforcement order by the Environment Court should be a timely warning for dairy farmers to ensure their effluent management systems meet required standards and are capable of coping with expansion on-farm, says Anderson Lloyd Associate Jackie St John.
In April this year, the Environment Court issued an enforcement order to a Marlborough dairy farm owner prohibiting him from re-stocking for the 2014-15 milking season until an approved effluent management system is installed. The Court indicated that it will order the farm to be destocked if the effluent system is not installed as directed, and might even cancel the farm’s resource consent – which would be an unprecedented move in New Zealand.
Marlborough District Council initiated the enforcement order process in August 2013, under the Resource Management Act (RMA) 1991, against Awarua Farm Marlborough Ltd and its director Philip Woolley for breaching terms of the farm company’s resource consent.
The farm had consent to milk 700 cows, but its effluent sump proved inadequate to deal with wash-down volumes.
The Court was not satisfied that the conditions of consent and the requirements of the RMA could be met with the existing effluent storage system. The Court decided it was essential to make a permanent enforcement order that there be no re-stocking of the farm for the 2014-15 milking season until a new effluent system (with specific parameters) was approved and installed.
In the event that no effluent system was approved and installed by 30 July 2014, and the farm was restocked in breach of the order or the certification reports indicated on-going problems with the operation, then the Council could apply to the Court to de-stock the farm or cancel its resource consent.
This response reinforces that the Courts have extensive powers to enforce breaches of the RMA and tailor enforcement solutions to suit individual cases.
Meanwhile, Mr Woolley has a mammoth task ahead to achieve compliance. Until a new effluent management system is installed, and to avoid further prosecutions for breach, he will need to implement an extremely high level of site management and potentially remove excess effluent from the farm in extreme weather conditions.
It is possible that significantly reducing stock numbers or even ceasing operation and surrendering resource consent might yet prove to be more viable options.