Northland dairy farmers have cleaned up their act considerably in the past year in terms of effluent pollution, but more still needs to be done.
The latest farm dairy effluent report from the Northland Regional Council shows the region's almost 1000 dairy farmers have made improvements on compliance rates in the 2012/13 dairying season.
This week the Ministry of Primary Industries' latest Dairying and Clean Streams Accord report for the 2011/12 season had Northland's dairy farmers as the worst in the country for effluent compliance.
But council operations director Tony Phipps said although released this week those figures were from last season and the most up-to-date survey showed a big improvement.
Mr Phipps said that between August and December last year the council visited 978 Northland diary farms and 41 per cent were found to be fully compliant with their resource consents for effluent, compared to 38 per cent the previous year.
He said 20 per cent were found in significant non-compliance, down from 27 per cent in the accord survey.
The council's report says that in August 2012, 76 per cent of farms checked were exercising their consent rights to discharge to water, but by November, this had dropped to 42 per cent.
Mr Phipps said the council's monitoring figures for the 2012/13 milking season showed almost 80 per cent of the region's dairy farms were either following the resource consent conditions and rules or had only minor slip-ups.
"That is a good improvement, and we are happy with that, but there's still a way to go," he said.
"There are still too many Northland dairy farms where effluent management is not done well and isn't accorded the high priority it should be."
Mr Phipps said the Northland Effluent Improvement Group, made up of the council, Federated Farmers, Farmers of NZ and Fonterra, was working to improve the compliance rates.
He said improvements put in place by farmers in the past year, including new and upgraded infrastructure, would lead to fewer non-compliance issues as farmers got to grips with them.
"It would be nice, but probably too optimistic, to say we can get it down to 100 per cent full compliance."
The NRC had increased the number of non-compliance notices and prosecutions to farmers found in serious breach in recent years and Mr Phipps felt the carrot and stick approach was helping.
It will carry out one-on-one follow-up visits to all significantly non-compliant farms and when requested by the owners.
DAIRYING IN NORTHLAND:
Full compliance with Northland Regional Council dairy effluent rules: