Fonterra stopped milk collection from around 10 non-compliant dairy farms across Northland in the past five years that have had poor compliance history with effluent rules.
The dairy giant said in its Farmer Terms of Supply, there were clear expectations on environment management including fit-for-purpose effluent systems that have sufficient storage capacity.
The statistics on non-compliance comes after two Northland dairy farms and their operators were fined nearly $75,000 for improperly discharging effluent into waterways as well as breaching an abatement notice.
The fines were handed down by the Environment Court in Whangārei to James Dodunski, JKD Farms, Campbell Farms Maromaku, and Neil John Campbell after they pleaded guilty to breaches under the Resource Management Act. None have had milk collection stopped.
It's the second time JKD Farms has been prosecuted and fined for breaching the Act.
The first time was in 2011 when the company was fined $26,000 on two charges of discharging farm dairy effluent into separate tributaries.
Fonterra's Northland regional head Mike Borrie said non-compliant effluent management posed a significant risk to a farm's business, the co-op's reputation and the dairy industry.
He said while Fonterra has the option to suspend milk collection, its first approach was to provide support to farmers to remedy the situation and to educate them on best practices.
"We've offered support and advice, and undertaken several follow-up visits to keep them on track. We're seeing good results from this engagement with many completing the work needed, and have seen significant non-compliance drop as a result."
Borrie said farmers could access a range of services from their local sustainable dairying advisor at no extra cost and Fonterra also helped them develop a Farm Environmental Plan that included an assessment of their effluent system.
"While these cases don't reflect the vast majority of dairy farmers who work hard to ensure they have adequate storage and fit for purpose effluent system, all farms need to ensure they are meeting their regional requirements," he said.
Dodunski and JKD Farms both entered guilty pleas to two charges in relation to an effluent spill from a property in Maungakaramea and a breach of an abatement notice.
The Northland Regional Council noted nearly full or overflowing ponds in 2014 and three years later, it wrote to the company advising of continuous non-compliance that may lead to enforcement action, and offered to work with the owners to rectify the situation.
However, an inspection in early 2018 found that a small pond was overflowing into a nearby tributary and eventually into a river.
Judge Jeff Smith said both Dodunski and the company knew the system was inadequate and failed to increase the capacity.
Dodunski was fined $27,500 on the effluent discharge but convicted and discharged on a breach of the abatement notice which the judge ruled was an offence committed by the company.
JKD Farms was ordered to pay $30,000 for the effluent discharge and a further $16,500 on the other charge.
In the other case, Campbell was fined $18,000 on a charge of discharging dairy effluent and his company $9000 for breach of an abatement notice.
During a farm inspection in 2018, an NRC contractor found one pond was nearly full and a broken pipe between two ponds that resulted in a backflow into a stormwater discharge channel.
Two year prior, NRC gave Campbell and his company a final warning after delays in installing and operating a proper irrigation to land system.
"It is not the concern of the court how the breach occurred, but that it did occur and that both the company and yourself are liable as such," Judge Smith said.