Accord laggards letting down water quality work

 Forest & Bird said today a fall in the proportion of farmers significantly breaching their dairy effluent conditions was good news, but a significant minority were letting down industry efforts to help turn around our declining water quality.  

The 2010/2011 snapshot of the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord was released today, showing that the number of farmers with significant breaches of their effluent discharge consents had fallen nationally from 16 percent to 11 percent since the previous season.

“While there has been some decrease in the level of significant non-compliance with dairy effluent consent conditions, it is disappointing that some regions have lagged behind and the problems have got worse in some areas such as Southland,” Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell said.

The significant non-compliance rate in Southland rose to 18 percent in the latest season from 13 percent a year earlier. In areas such as Northland and Marlborough around a quarter of all dairy farms were found to be significantly non-compliant.

“But there are some positive developments in the latest figures. The number of dairy farms with a nutrient management plan has risen from to 46 percent from just 10 percent in 2009/10,” he said. 

“We hope this figure will be closer to 100 percent by the end of next season and all farmers and councils will recognise the importance of meeting their accord obligations.

Forest & Bird is pleased the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry audited the accord’s targets for keeping stock away from waterways. This showed that the number of farms with all their waterways protected from stock was half the 84 percent reported in the snapshot.

But it was encouraging that an average of only 800 metres of additional fencing was required on each farm to achieve the goal, Kevin Hackwell said. Forest & Bird supports Fonterra’s decision to respond to the audit’s findings by making stock exclusion part of their supply contract with farmers and hopes other dairy companies will follow their lead.     

Regional councils are still falling far short of their undertakings eight years after the accord was signed in 2003. Only three regional councils – Marlborough, Horizons and Taranaki – have met the 2005 target of fencing 50 percent of regionally significant wetlands and only Taranaki has met the 2007 target of fencing 90 percent.

“It is very disappointing that so many regional councils have not taken their accord responsibilities seriously,” Kevin Hackwell said.