Dairy industry keeps on polluting

 The latest snapshot of the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord highlights the continuing failure of the dairy industry to meet the majority of targets set for 2007, Forest & Bird said today.

“We are eight years into the accord and in the 2009/10 snapshot, only two of the five targets set for 2007 have been met,” Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell said.

“Sadly there is still a significant minority of dairy farmers letting down the majority of producers and other New Zealanders.”

The target set in 2003 that all farms should immediately comply with resource consents has still not been met by the 16 percent of farmers guilty of significant non-compliance, according to the accord snapshot released on Thursday.

“It is a real surprise that, as the level of serious non-compliance increased, the number of prosecutions by regional councils actually went down. It seems that the regional councils in the areas of highest offending are still not taking the problem seriously,” Kevin Hackwell said.

Fonterra farmers have been required to have nutrient management systems since 2007 but Primary Sector Water Partnership figures show only 28 percent of farmers had nutrient management plans by September last year.

The target for regional councils to fence 90 percent of all regionally significant wetlands bordering dairying areas by 2007 has also not been met. Taranaki is the only regional council to have met the 2007 target and most councils have fallen short of the earlier 50 percent target for 2005.

“Several councils haven’t even identified regionally significant wetlands, let alone getting around to fencing them,” Kevin Hackwell said.

The current accord between partners Fonterra, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (now Ministry of Primary Industries), the Ministry for the Environment, and Local Government New Zealand expires in two years. The good news is they are engaging with other interested groups such as Forest & Bird, Fish & Game, Federated Farmers and other dairy companies to draw up a new accord.

Kevin Hackwell said despite the efforts of Fonterra and other partners, the present accord amounted to little more than a band-aid.

“The trouble is that the present accord does not deal with the core issue which is if you are putting more cows per hectare and trying to maximise milk production, then the problem is going to keep getting worse.

“The focus needs to be on measurable improvements in water quality. Despite its name, the Clean Streams Accord has never measured water quality.”

The government-backed Land and Water Forum, which includes farmers, industry, iwi and conservation and recreation organisations such as Forest & Bird, has agreed the answer to improving water quality lies with a combination of voluntary and regulatory measures.