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Dairying in the Mackenzie - How far is too far?

When it comes to extremes we all have different limits. And sometimes we have to reach those nasty edges to appreciate they do exist.

Extremes have been reached with the mega dairy farm planned for the Mackenzie Basin. A huge industrial dairying project that’s seen 12 environmental activists arrested and dragged off by police this week.

The idea of restraining the expansion of New Zealand’s virulent dairy industry is something the country’s been grappling with since well before the election.

If we don’t work it out soon our international reputation is in trouble. Our clean green image might transform into a slimy green one reminiscent of the algal bloom in our rivers.

There’s been a growing realisation, as an OECD report on New Zealand puts it, that we are hitting our environmental limits for intensive dairying.

Greenpeace believes we’ve already seriously breached those limits as the country faces rampant water pollution, rising climate emissions and now, degradation of landscapes like the Mackenzie.

Sustainable agriculture campaigner Gen Toop says "This dairy incursion into the iconic and world renowned Mackenzie country is a major threat to the environment and to the reputation of NZ’s dairy industry in the international markets it relies on."

And judging by the iconic pictures of New Zealand whizzing around social media with the hashtag #Savethemackenzie that is a clear and present danger.

But maybe, just maybe there’s some grudging consensus that we’ve stumbled over the hard edged limit for industrial dairying - into the golden tussock lands of the Mackenzie.

The last 24 hours has seen muted agreement from unexpected quarters.

Nathan Guy former Agricultural Minister under National went on the record saying it was a "unfortunate" that the Mackenzie mega farm received its first consents.

Mr Guy’s comments come after Fonterra, the big kahuna of the dairy world, casually tweeted that it too was not wildly in favour of the Mackenzie megafarm. "We’d prefer not to see more dairy expansion in the Mackenzie Basin"

The language is moderate but such a statement would have been unthinkable this time last year.

Greenpeace says "Fonterra and other industry leaders need to go further than just words, and actually get behind the campaign to ban dairy conversions."

A small poll run by The Country radio show with a large rural listenership showed those against dairying in the Mackenzie vastly outnumber those in favour 61 per cent to 39.

For the Feds, that’s the Federated Farmers not the FBI, their spokesman Chris Allen has indicated that having large numbers of cows on the Mackenzie is not ideal:

"Because there are biodiversity and landscape values to be considered, and I know farmers who are opposed," Allen said. A number of farmers have voiced that same opinion to Greenpeace.

Now the environmental organisation is calling on the wider agricultural industry to put their big person pants on and come out against Mackenzie dairy expansion.

"Open Country Dairy, Synlait and all the other dairy companies in New Zealand urgently need to deal with this serious threat to the international reputation of NZ’s dairy industry."

Greenpeace is also calling on other players Beef and Lamb and Horticulture NZ to stand up and be counted.

"The whole primary industry’s reputation is on the line here." says Toop. " Agricultural leaders and companies across the spectrum should follow Fonterra’s lead and publicly condemn new dairy expansion in the Mackenzie."
ENDS

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