3 November 2009
EBOP loses trust and alienates farmers over inspections fiasco
Far from being cowed by Environment Bay of Plenty (EBOP), Rotorua’s dairy farmers have rounded on the Regional Council, slating its selective disclosure of the facts relating to a dairy farm compliance press release last week.
“If I were an urban resident of Rotorua, I’d take EBOP’s propaganda at face value and say ‘there go those farmers again’. It seems to have worked on Maori Party MP, Te Ururoa Flavell, who has taken EBOP’s propaganda hook, line and sinker,” says Neil Heather, Federated Farmers Rotorua provincial president who is a sheep and beef farmer.
“Rotorua is our lake and our environment too, but EBOP’s policy making by press release isn’t the way to get action. If the Council saw there was a problem then my number and that of my dairy chairperson is in the white pages as well as on the Federated Farmers website.
“If EBOP worked with Federated Farmers rather than against us, we could have easily convened a meeting to galvanise farmers but no call came. Farmers want to get to the bottom of what must sound to urban residents, unacceptable dirty-dairying. I wish to assure Rotorua that all farmers do give a damn and EBOP has been more than selective with the facts.
“Yes, an initial inspection showed half the farms had issues, but re-inspection of those 16 farms on 1 September, 6 October, 19 October and the final farm yesterday, 2 November, showed that all but four were compliant.
“Yet the Regional Council released its media release on 29 October based solely on the initial inspection. The Council knew full well by then that the 15 re-inspections conducted showed a strong trend line towards compliance.
“The reality is that 28 of the 32 dairy farms (87.5 percent) comply with their consent conditions.
“It also speaks volumes that while we’ve asked for an urgent meeting to get to the bottom of this, the Regional Council is yet to give us a date. The 87.5 percent compliance rate is far from the shrill release the Council issued last week. That tells me there’s a lot more to this.
“As a non-dairy farmer that grates with me, really grates with me. It speaks volumes about EBOP’s supposed ‘community engagement’ as farmers as dairy farmers pay for these inspections under user-pays.
“While the real compliance figure is 87.5 percent, I do not feel that’s good enough and my dairy farmers have to do better. That said, it’s a hell of a lot better than the shocking 50 percent figure used by the Regional Council last week.
“It doesn’t impress me that my team has had to dig like hell to get these re-inspection figures too. In fact, I only got the final piece of the jigsaw at 4.15pm yesterday because the Regional Council has been somewhat less than forthcoming.
“There was something fishy when the Regional Council issued its media release last week as dairy farms were near to 100 percent compliant last year. Either we became environmental vandals overnight or without telling us, the Regional Council is interpreting rules in a completely new way.
“I’m glad the chairperson of Federated Farmers Dairy, Lachlan McKenzie, has email proof that the Regional Council is interpreting rules differently. The Regional Council never showed us the courtesy of sharing this interpretation before the inspectors pitched up.
“Clearly dairy farmers and all farmers are sick of regional councils moving the goalposts. Maybe it’s time to have a debate on nationally consistent rules as this would help prevent EBOP’s underhanded reporting of dairy inspections,” Mr Heather concluded.