The Dairy and Clean Streams Accord was set up in 2003 by dairy giant Fonterra, the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, the Minister for the Environment, and Local Government NZ to challenge the dairy industry to take greater responsibility for its environmental impact.
The Accord aimed to help reverse the serious decline in the quality of waterways.
Unfortunately the Accord has failed to meet several of its targets and water quality in dairying areas has generally continued to get worse.
Contributing factors in the failure of the Accord include:
- Failure to meet the target that all dairy farm effluent discharges will comply with resource consents and regional plans.
- Reporting of progress towards the Accord’s targets has been inconsistent between regions and has often been incorrect.
- Most regional councils have not identified regionally important wetlands and many wetlands still remain unfenced which means that stock can pollute the water through defecation.
- For many years councils have failed to prosecute dairy farmers who are repeatedly not complying with resource consents.
- Fonterra’s goal of 4% production growth each year (doubling dairy production in 17 years) has contributed to expansion and intensification of dairy farming – worsening its environmental impact.
- Forest & Bird and Fish & Game have criticized the Accord for failing to adequately measure and achieve improved water quality.
It is clear that the voluntary approach of the Accord has not been effective by itself in improving water quality. While many farmers have worked hard to achieve the Accords targets, because it is voluntary there is no mechanism to force the minority of poor performing farmers to act responsibly. Forest & Bird and Fish & Game recommend that the Clean Streams Accord:
- includes all major stakeholders, not just the dairy industry and local and central government
- provides clearly defined timelines, targets, outcomes and measures for improved water quality
- establishes consistent nationwide benchmarks for assessing progress
- strengthens enforcement so that poor performers face effective sanctions.