by Gerald Piddock, stuff.co.nz, 25 June 2015

A sheep and beef farmer has been the first to receive a formal warning for breaching the Resource Management Act under the Waikato Regional Council’s Variation 5 consenting regime.

The farmer exceeded the nitrogen discharge cap on properties in the Lake Taupo catchment over a two year period.

The warning came after it was discovered more than a tonne of excess nitrogen could eventually leach into the lake as a result of the farmer’s operations over the two years. The breaches are not expected to have a major detrimental effect on the lake’s future health.

The council’s Variation 5 consenting regime is designed to protect the lake’s health from nitrogen, which can leach into waterways and cause nuisance algae.

The warning letter said the breaches occurred because the farmer did not farm in accordance with his registered nitrogen management plan and failed to inform the council he was deviating from the plan. The breaches totalled an extra 1030 kilograms of potential nitrogen leaching in total.

The council’s farming services manager Nicole Botherway said they would hold people to account if they negligently or deliberately breach resource consents. This is not only for the health of the lake but also in fairness to all those working within their cap.

“This case is particularly unfortunate as the farmer has personally been involved in efforts to protect the lake. He has been open and co-operative, and acknowledged he did not do things properly on the properties concerned.”

There was a range of technical factors behind the breach, including more stock being carried on the farm than was proposed under the farm’s nitrogen management plan.

Other factors included carrying older and different breeds of stock than identified in the plan, the application of nitrogen fertiliser and less supplements made on the property than proposed.

More attention needed to be paid to adhering to the details of the farm’s nutrient management plan, she said

Any future action by the regional council, if the farmer offended again, would depend on the circumstances the breach, as well as the “history of non compliance”.