Environment Southland takes its compliance monitoring and enforcement responsibilities seriously. A Forest & Bird report released today (13/08/2018) draws some inaccurate and misleading conclusions with regard to our compliance, monitoring and enforcement of the dairy sector.
The report compares all regional and unitary councils and highlighted the differing approaches between regions.
In Southland, we inspect all dairy farms – 941 effluent discharge consents; some more than once in a given year. The report commented that we don’t follow up with all farms that are graded as significantly non-compliant. This is incorrect. We follow up with each of the farms graded as significantly non-compliant (39 last year), and details of this are readily available on our website.
When a farm is graded as significantly non-compliant there is a range of follow-up actions available to us; not all of these actions result in enforcement. Other actions include re-inspection, infringement notices or abatement notices. The approach to this is clearly laid out in our policy on our website, but essentially the type of non-compliance and the scale is considered and the best outcome is determined.
The E rating given to us in the report is based on incorrect information, and we are disappointed that we weren’t able to correct some of the assumptions that Forest & Bird used to determine this rating.
We follow all best practice when it comes to our monitoring and enforcement actions. We have a very strong compliance record and put in a lot of effort to be as transparent as possible with our actions and our information.
We provide an Annual Compliance Monitoring Report, one of only a few regions to provide this. In the last two years, we have also provided summary information broken down by catchment. These are all available on our website - https://www.es.govt.nz/services/consents-and-compliance/Pages/Compliance-monitoring-reports.aspx
We have a continuous improvement approach to compliance that is evident in the information we make publicly available and through the sentencing notes for prosecution cases. The feedback we receive demonstrates we are on the right track, and you can get a sense of this from how the courts comment on our performance.
Some of the findings in the Forest & Bird report draw huge conclusions from the information gathered. For example, the assumption that there is a simple ratio of consents to number of compliance officers, although 'technically' correct, is very misleading. Consents can cover a myriad of activities meaning monitoring these can have huge variances in staff time.
It is difficult to compare what each council is doing as they each have vastly different rules. However, the compliance managers work closely together and have a number of validation and assessment activities they carry out each year to ensure some consistency across the country, particularly in terms of significant non-compliance. A significant non-compliant farm in Auckland should look the same as a significant non-compliant farm in Canterbury and Southland, even though the rules that apply may be different. This is important work, and it’s work that is continually being re-evaluated and improved.
For more information on Environment Southland’s approach to compliance, check out our website. You can view our Annual Compliance Monitoring Reports going back to 2005, as well as the summary catchment factsheets. https://www.es.govt.nz/services/consents-and-compliance/Pages/Compliance-monitoring-reports.aspx
You can also see our policies and complaints procedure: https://www.es.govt.nz/services/consents-and-compliance/Pages/Compliance-information.aspx