Activist’s posts get stern response

Activist Geoff Reid has been in weather-worn Southland last week taking photos of farms and posting to social media in a stance against winter grazing practices. Photo: Facebook

WINTER grazing in Southland is once again in the spotlight, following social media posts from an environmental activist.

The posts, though, have brought a stern reply from some Environment Southland (ES) councillors.

Activist Geoff Reid took some photos of weather-worn Southland farms, some of which look to have been taken by drone.

‘‘This farm is currently spilling runoff into a freshly dug trench that is draining a large peat wetland.

‘‘Pollution is flowing into the Eglinton River and causing havoc in Lake Te Anau,’’ he posted last Monday.

The topic itself was brought up at an ES meeting last week.

Cr Lloyd McCallum said social media was alive with discussion on the practice of winter grazing in Southland.

He knew it would come, but cautioned it needed a careful response.

‘‘It’s very easy to light the fire but it’s hard to put it out sometimes.’’

He warned it would only get worse.

Cr Jeremy McPhail said, while attending a meeting with the Environmental Reference Group, there was a lack of understanding about Southland farms and wintering practices from some North Island farmers.

‘‘They were making assumptions.’’

Fellow councillor Allan Baird informed colleagues the Federated Farmers dairy executives visited the region last week to get that understanding.

Cr Peter McDonald positioned himself as devil’s advocate.

‘‘I’ve been doing this practice for 35 years. I’ve done it all, made all the mistakes.

‘‘I hear it quite often — people don’t understand us in Southland, we need to educate people more.

‘‘Is it us? Or is it everyone else?’’

Strategy and Policy Committee chairman Eric Roy outlined his experiences.

‘‘I’ve been farming a little bit longer than you. I’ve kept a good record of what happens.’’

In 1972, there were 10 days akin to Monday last week.

‘‘Ten days when the best practice still ends up with things that aren’t pretty.’’

He told councillors that in that year 13 Southland farmers committed suicide.

‘‘There were probably 40 days like that.’’

There was always a plethora of people posting to social media after a weather event such as on Monday, and he was not sure how to handle that.

‘‘But that is the reality of farming in Southland.’’

Offering a non-farmer perspective, Cr Robert Guyton said he did not believe there would be any getting around it, unless there was significant land-use change.

He said that was unpalatable and was why people went to social media.

‘‘They can’t come to terms with that.’’

There had been no reports to police of incidents relating to trespass or drone usage in Southland after the posts were published.

After the meeting, Cr McCallum said his concern was that social media didn’t always provide the full picture, and photos could sometimes be misleading.

He encouraged anyone who saw anything they were concerned about environmentally to get in touch with ES directly.

‘‘The team can assess it and provide advice or take things further if that’s needed.’’

ES planned to undertake its first aerial compliance inspection of the winter grazing season this week if the weather allowed.

ES chief executive Rob Phillips said the inspection would be an opportunity to see how people’s planning had held up following recent wet weather and identify where further improvements are needed.

“Landowners need to be mindful of maintaining good management practices, including managing critical source areas and buffers, after heavy rain.”