ES begins winter grazing monitoring

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Environment Southland carried out the first of its aerial inspections of winter grazing practices last week. PHOTO: ENVIRONMENT SOUTHLAND

ENVIRONMENT Southland’s (ES) first compliance inspections have seen positive improvements in winter grazing practices.

ES chief executive Rob Phillips said observations from the preliminary flight last week indicated a better uptake of good management practices.

These included fencing of waterways and the creation of buffer zones, with no immediate compliance concerns identified.

“I’m encouraged by what we’ve seen.

“Farmers appear to have made a real effort, which is exactly what we need.

“We are mindful that it’s still early in the season and this was only a preliminary flight to get an indication of any issues,” Mr Phillips said.

“Wet weather is inevitable and while this will present challenges, we expect farmers to continue their focus on good wintering practice.

Agriculture in Southland was very important to the regional and national economies, but some farming practices, if not done well, negatively impacted water quality, he said.

“Winter grazing is a high-risk activity with regard to water quality and all farmers need to undertake good management practice.”

Last week’s flights covered a large portion of Southland, from Tussock Creek through to Garston and Mossburn and then some of the Western Southland area, Mr Phillips said.

“Staff are still working through the information and photos gathered during the flight and at this stage it looks like we will be looking to arrange follow up advice for a handful of properties that could be at risk of winter grazing issues in wetter weather.

“A lot of effort has gone into ensuring farmers understand what is expected of them and providing the advice and information to help them get there.

“This year we look forward to seeing a sustained improvement that Southland as a whole can be proud of,” Mr Phillips said.

Last winter, ES undertook three aerial inspections resulting in 68 follow-up site visits, a further 88 letters of concern to property owners, six infringements and two prosecution cases.

Several others were referred to ES’s land sustainability team for advice and support on winter grazing.

Further compliance flights will be undertaken in late July/August.

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