Waihi Beach flooding tests patience

By Fritha Tagg

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Fergus Farm has been part of the Waihi Beach landscape since 1946.

But the weather conditions in June definitely tested the patience of Brian Fergus who had to face three flooding scenarios just before he started this milking season.

Brian's father Neil purchased the family farm in 1946 and even he has not seen such bad erosion on the hill country since cyclone Bola.

The farm - nearly 300ha - milking 640 cows, has two quite distinct areas. It starts in steep hill country from Mathers property down to the flatlands just behind the residential area of Waihi Beach, so there is a huge catchment area and it all drains down through the flats and out Three Mile Creek. Neighbouring the Fergus Farm is the Western Bay of Plenty District Council sewage treatment plant and wetlands and a council-owned dairy farm.

Brian Fergus has concerns about the comments made at Waihi Beach Community Board meetings about pollution in Three Mile Creek coming from farmland beyond the Treatment Plant.

"Why couldn't someone come and talk to me. I would like the opportunity to set the record straight," said Mr Fergus.

"These people come down here [Waihi Beach] from out of town and make grand statements but have very little idea about real farm practices."

He said all waterways, drains, creeks and effluent system on his farm are totally compliant with Environment BoP and Fonterra. They do regular checks on-farm. The waterways are all fenced. The farm's effluent system has an eight-day holding capacity and then the effluent is sprayed onto dry paddocks.

The flooding in June certainly had an affect on the farm with more than 40ha under water - and it happened three times in 25 days.

Mr Fergus estimated there was about 200,000 cubic metres of water and it all had to go out via Three Mile Creek.

"There had to be some runoff from paddocks, it's inevitable. I don't think people realise the significance of a 65-year flood scenario."

He said things can be worse in summer, when the creek is not flowing well. The water ponds, becomes stagnant and that can cause its own problems.

"Council's wetland [attached to the sewage treatment plant] has gone underwater several times and there have been incidents or problems with discharge from the treatment plant into the creek as well."

Mr Fergus asks Waihi Beach Community Board to invite local farmers west of Three Mile Creek to a meeting to endeavour to get a better understanding of the reality of farming and flood situations.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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