Farmers could face longer term issues of compliance and
liability in the wake of this week's storm in Canterbury,
according to environmental law specialist Ewan Chapman, of Duncan
The potentially longer term issues with irrigator pivots being
out of action for some months, pending repair, will not only affect
production but has implications for how farmers dispose of their
"Farmers need to have strategies in place to deal with both
the financial consequences of lost production and compliance
consequences of unusable effluent spreading equipment. Particularly
the latter will be critical, given that suppliers have signalled
that some irrigation systems may take months to repair."
Chapman said farmers would need to work closely with insurers,
the Regional Council and technical advisers to find pragmatic and
effective interim and long-term solutions.
"The insurers will be involved through the cover most
farmers should hold for damage to essential equipment such as
irrigators, loss of production income and statutory liability for
non-compliance with environmental requirements. The Regional
Council will need to be satisfied that any interim effluent
disposal methods are appropriate, while technical advisers have the
ability to identify the best way to deal with effluent while
"The key will be to ensure all parties work together so
that repairs are prioritised and the most critical equipment for
production and environmental requirements is repaired first.
Farmers will have to take initiative, as not only do the insurers
require policy holders to take all reasonable steps to minimise
economic loss, but the regional council will expect all reasonable
steps to avoid environmental harm."
Chapman said that, in terms of loss minimisation, a good rule of
thumb is for farmers to ask what they would do to minimise the loss
if they were paying for it themselves and then do that (provided it
To keep on the right side of the law in terms of the Regional
Council's environmental requirements, farmers should keep a
good paper trail to show that:
The effluent discharge is necessary to avoid damage or
It could not have been foreseen or provided against;
The method you have chosen was reasonable in the circumstances;
All practicable steps were taken to fix or lessen environmental
harm as soon as possible.
"Being able to show that all reasonable steps have been
taken to minimise both the financial and environmental harm will be
crucial when filling out insurance claim forms or dealing with
Council monitoring officers."
Chapman urged farmers to review their risk management strategy
to ensure they have the right cover and contingency measures.
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