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Dilemma...Oceania Dairy is facing possible wastewater disposal problems if it wants to expand further. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

by Chris Tobin

The smell of discharge from Oceania Dairy Ltd’s factory at Glenavy is getting up the noses of its neighbours.

“Milkfat decomposing is a source of smell and in the proper processing of this there should be no odour coming from the irrigation process,” Bruce Murphy said in his submission to Environment Canterbury on Oceania’s proposal to build a 7.5km pipeline to discharge wastewater from the factory into the Pacific Ocean.

Mr Murphy and Murphy Farms, a family group of dairy farms, operates next to Oceania’s plant.

Mr Murphy said they observed daily the challenges Oceania faced in discharging wastewater to land, the main problem being to apply wastewater and effluent in nonconducive conditions year-round.

“This means it has to be discharged even on frosty days and during rainfall periods.

“One of the biggest concerns we have is the application of effluent to cultivated paddocks without crops on and therefore the ability to soak up the nutrient is minimised. This has been happening every winter over the last three years and simply is not sustainable.”

Mr Murphy said farmers had been required to reduce water use and move towards good management practice but this did not seem to apply to Oceania.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) consents planning manager Virginia Loughnan said Oceania, like farmers, was required to manage its nutrient losses to limit the effects of its activities on the environment in a different way.

“But with the same intent and stringency and the land where they discharge wastewater, if a working farm, must operate under both sets of restrictions.

“Our monitoring and inspection of the activities has been positive and we have worked closely with Oceania to ensure compliance.”

Mr Murphy and Murphy Farms was one of only six submitters who supported the pipeline proposal. More than one hundred submitters were opposed.

“It will mitigate odour and soil damage,” Mr Murphy said.

“Respecting the thoughts of our local runanga, we believe this is a better outcome for all stakeholders including the Glenavy residents, and surrounding farmers.”

Local irrigator, the Morven Glenavy Ikawai Irrigation Company, supported the proposal because discharge to land, in their view, was not sustainable through winter months and during rainfall.

Among those opposing the pipeline was Southern Inshore Fisheries which stated that while the wastewater could be diluted by approximately 300 times within 50m of the discharge point, the proposal failed to recognise the cumulative effects on the sea and that of other dairy operations along the coastline.

Waitaki Irrigators Collective Ltd , representing five irrigation schemes and a society of individual irrigators who take water from Lake Waitaki and the Waitaki River, were opposed also and said Oceania should be held to the same standards and expectations as irrigating entities around the country. Te Runanga o Waihao and Te Runanga o Arowhenua said the application should be declined.