Comment: Carrying the can for effluent disposal

By: Ken Shirley, Road Transport CEO

With livestock operators often shouldering the responsibility of proper effluent disposal, RTF urges farmers, MPI, and meat processors to step up to the task

Livestock operators are sick of shouldering the responsibility for the farming sector and local councils over effluent disposal, and, quite frankly, as an industry, we have had enough.

As I write this, the Road Transport Forum (RTF) is going into bat for an operator who is being threatened with a major fine by Horizons Regional Council over effluent leakage from the back of one of their trucks. This is the same council that has completely failed in their responsibility to provide adequate effluent dumpsites yet has jurisdiction over one of New Zealand’s richest agricultural areas.

Farmers generally refuse to have the effluent dumped on their farms, and the same goes for meat processors. Because of this, many livestock transport companies have tried installing effluent tanks at their depots, but ironically, many don’t even get past the council’s consenting process to do so.

The fact is that livestock transporters are more than happy to continue to play their part in the responsible movement of animals but it is not acceptable to leave the burden of responsibility for effluent disposal solely with transporters. At the end of the day, it must be remembered that effluent is a waste product of farming, which, the last time I looked, is a $15 billion industry in New Zealand, so why should transporters be left alone to deal with cleaning up the mess?

While livestock trailers routinely have around 750 litres of effluent storage, a typical dairy cow will emit three to four litres of effluent an hour, meaning that a fully loaded trailer doesn’t have all that long before its tanks are full.


RTF and the National Livestock Transport & Safety Group (NLT&SG) have not been shy in voicing our concern at the lack of support that livestock transporters have been getting from MPI, farmers, and meat processors when it comes to the responsible movement of stock.

Despite negotiated agreements between councils, farming representatives, meat processors, and the transport sector that require each to pull their weight on effluent, it is still treated solely as the responsibility of the transport operator.

Farmers are supposed to adequately stand stock off green feed prior to transport while councils and meat processors are meant to provide appropriate and accessible effluent disposal facilities.

RTF, its member association, and the NLT&SG will continue to engage with councils, farmers, and local meat processors to find a better solution to this problem, however, sometimes it feels like we continue to meet dead ends.

The fact is that the Mycoplasma bovis incursion has made the job of transporting stock harder and with even more barriers to effluent disposal. Local government and the primary sector don’t want to step up and MPI seems reluctant to force them to facilitate the appropriate disposal of effluent. It is an out-of-sight-out-of-mind attitude that leaves transporters to deal with what is fundamentally not our problem.

Transport operators experiencing issues with effluent disposal and vehicle washing should seek the help of their NLT&SG representatives or relevant road transport association representative. RTF will also continue to lobby the local and central government to force the primary sector to start taking responsibility.

Finally, don’t forget that the Road Transport Forum Annual Conference, including the New Zealand Road Transport Industry Awards, is coming up on 26 and 27 September. We have recently confirmed a number of high-powered speakers, most notably Minister of Transport Phil Twyford, CEO of KiwiRail Peter Reidy, and employment relations expert from Business NZ Paul Mackay. 

For more details on the conference, including an online registration facility, accommodation options, sponsorship packages, and a draft programme, visit

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