Clean Streams report misleads

Forest & Bird says a report released this morning on the progress of the Sustainable Dairying Water Accord will mislead New Zealanders over some of the impacts the dairy sector is having on the quality of the country’s lakes and rivers. 

The Sustainable Dairying Water Accord is based on an accord signed more than a decade ago. Today’s report has been released by Dairy NZ and the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand. 

Forest & Bird says the report is seriously flawed in several ways, including that it under-represents the number of times collected dairy effluent polluted waterways in the Taranaki region in the last year. 

“Today’s report states only 18 farms were found to be significantly non-compliant – just one per cent of dairy farms in the Taranaki,” says Forest & Bird Group Manager Campaigns and Advocacy Kevin Hackwell.

“However, the Taranaki Regional Council recently released a report that showed the Council has served 144 abatement notices and 33 infringement notices to dairy farmers in the last year for breaches of dairy farm effluent rules and conditions. 

“As we know, things have to be pretty bad before the authorities abandon their usual ‘softly softly’ approach and actually issue one of these notices.

“It is clear the Accord report has seriously understated the level of serious non-compliance regards dairy effluent discharges in the Taranaki region, which are probably ten times higher than the one per cent reported,” Kevin Hackwell says

Kevin Hackwell says the authors of the report have also made a significant error in calculating the national rate of serious non-compliance, and that the reported percentage of overall non-compliance should be closer to 10 per cent, not seven per cent, as the report states. 

“It’s been more than 10 years since the Clean Streams Accord was signed. Not letting dairy shed effluent leak into the nearest river or stream is absolutely basic stuff. And yet around one in ten farmers are still being caught doing just this sort of thing,” Kevin Hackwell says.  

“Keep in mind too that in most cases the farmer gets warned they are going to get a compliance inspection. So the real level of rule-breaking is going to be far higher.  

“After 10 years the regional councils need to get real, and issue infringement notices - or prosecute - every time for this sort of thing. Other businesses in New Zealand don’t get this kind of easy ride, and nor should the dairy industry,” Kevin Hackwell says.

“And the dairy companies should also be imposing economic penalties on poorly performing farmers who are letting their fellow farmers down.

“The industry also needs to ensure that it presents the real facts, not sloppy stats that hide the real picture. If we are going to make real progress at improving water quality then we need to be honest about the present state of affairs” Kevin Hackwell says.