From REINZ magazine. Buyers and sellers of dairy farms are now able to get some peace of mind about one of the most critical aspects of a dairy farm purchase, the property’s effluent system. Industry good body DairyNZ has focussed on helping clear up the uncertainty that often lurks around farm effluent systems’ compliance, by developing the Effluent Warrant of Fitness (WOF) programme.
The programme aims to give a clearer indication to farmers, advisors and rural professionals including real estate agents about a system’s capability to meet current council regulations, and be fit for purpose 365 days a year.
DairyNZ developed the system with significant farmer input, and in response to frustration felt by many farmers and professionals who wanted to ensure systems were up to standard, but also wanted an independent, certified means of determining that.
DairyNZ sustainability team leader Dr Theresa Wilson said the Effluent WOF programme is based on a consistent method for assessing an effluent system with an independent certified assessor looking at the farm’s entire effluent infrastructure.
“The assessment process is very thorough. It covers the farm’s effluent consents and permitted rules, the storage capacity, nutrient loadings from the system, soil risk, irrigator performance, off-pasture infrastructure and general health and safety requirements.”
The system has been welcomed by real estate professionals who may sometimes encounter problems over dairy farm settlements due to an effluent system’s claimed capability and compliance.
“The effluent system is the second most viewed part of the farm for a potential buyer, after the farm dairy. It is very much at the forefront of the due diligence process. It is an aspect of farm infrastructure that can require significant investment to bring up to compliance level if it is not there, and earn significant fines if not up to scratch,” says Dr Wilson.
Waikato Bayleys real estate agent Mike Fraser-Jones viewed the Effluent WOF programme overseen by an industry good body like DairyNZ as a good step to helping farmers, both sellers and buyers, in the process.
Typically a vendor would warrant they are not away of any requisitions or requirements by any ruling bodies on the system, at time of sale.
“The buyer does need to do some due diligence however on the system during the buying process.”
Long-time Waikato rural valuer Ron Lockwood of Fergusson Lockwood and Associates in Hamilton also welcomed the opportunity for the sector to have an independent, affordable means of getting effluent systems assessed and certified.
“Given the potential liability of a non-compliant effluent system why wouldn’t you get this done?
“I think it is a very good idea, particularly from a purchaser’s point of view. If I was buying a dairy unit I would get one done.”
Dr Wilson says the Effluent WOF certification programme is establishing a network of certified assessors throughout the country who are capable of conducting the assessments.
Assessors are being drawn from the ranks of rural professionals who have a strong background in dairy advisory and management roles, and are subject to a rigorous and ongoing training, including a witnessed assessment.
“The WOF service provides them with an additional service to offer clients that helps deliver constructive, positive outcomes for them,” says Dr Wilson.
One of the first assessors in the country to be certified is Donna Corbin in Southland.
“A WOF assessment helps bring a ‘no surprises’ solution to farm purchases. Getting an assessment done means someone buying a farm won’t get caught out with an unplanned effluent upgrade bill,” she says.
One of her clients recently assessed was Ewen Mathieson in western Southland. The process enabled him to get an understanding of what was needed to be done to maintain best practice on effluent management, and to set a budget on what he needed to spend over the coming four years before his consent ended.
He particularly appreciated the independent, “top to tail” nature of the assessment.
“You need advice that has your best interests at heart, enabling you to make choices that best suit your system, not a certain piece of equipment or process.”
To learn more about Effluent WOF programme visit: www.effluentwof.co.nz