Friday, April 26, 2024

Council encourages open dialogue with activists

Neal Wallace
Critics of intensive winter grazing are relying on the court of public opinion to improve farmer practices, rather than regional councils or the Government who they label as ineffective.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Environment Southland chief executive Rob Phillips says the reluctance of environmental and animal welfare activists to report claims of poor winter grazing management in Southland hindered the council’s work.

“The council takes issues related to intensive winter grazing seriously and is working hard with others to support farmers to achieve good wintering practice and take compliance action, where necessary,” Phillips said.

“Unfortunately, the recent publicity about poor winter grazing practice cuts across that work.

“We want to follow up and address any poor practice, but when those circulating the images aren’t prepared to tell us where the properties are, it lets everyone down and certainly doesn’t help to improve the situation.”

Phillips questions the relevance and accuracy of some images shared online.

“Some of the images being shared are not from this winter and many don’t appear to be in Southland,” he said.

Waikato animal welfare activist Angus Robson says the system of policing the environment and the mistreatment of animals is broken, so the most effective way to express their concerns is through social media.

“Our contention is the system is broken – MPI and regional councils – so dobbing in an individual doesn’t help the system, it perpetuates the system,” Robson said.

As an example, Robson says he has raised concerns about drainage on a farm near Te Anau, requesting two-and-a-half weeks ago that Environment Southland serve an abatement notice, but nothing has happened.

Similarly, he claims MPI does not have the staff nor the legal backing to investigate non-acute claims of animal welfare abuse.

Activists are not publicly naming and shaming individual farmers because they want to encourage improved practice.

Robson also disputed claims that photographs have been doctored.

“If it looks distorted or animals have been made to do something they would not otherwise have done, we dump the photo so we cannot be accused of doing what we have been accused of doing,” he said.

Phillips says the council relies on public reports of properties where poor winter grazing practice may be occurring.

He says the council’s first winter grazing aerial inspection last week over a portion of the province revealed a good level of compliance.

“However, intensive winter grazing is a high risk activity when it comes to the environment, and Environment Southland recognises there are still properties where significant improvement is required,” Phillips said.

So far this season, the council has investigated 18 incidents or properties related to intensive winter grazing, 14 were reviewed and confirmed as not in breach, one was confirmed and three were being investigated.

Following last week’s aerial inspection, a further three will be investigated.

“This council is a big believer in working with others to get the best outcomes for Southland. By pulling together we achieve so much more,” he said.

The next aerial inspection is scheduled for the end of July and an animal welfare inspector from MPI is expected to be part of the compliance team on that flight.

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