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Meridian committed to sustainable dairy farming

Media Release

22 March, 2004

Meridian committed to sustainable dairy farming

Meridian Energy is implementing environmental best practices at dairy farms that it owns in the lower Waitaki Valley, in line with its commitment to be a sustainable business.

“Environmental sustainability is becoming an increasing focus for dairy farmers throughout the country,” says Project Aqua Land and Finance Manager Tim Allan. He said Meridian had bought a number of dairy farms in the lower Waitaki Valley on a willing buyer, willing seller basis, as part of Project Aqua. The company was “completely aligned with the industry goal of ensuring sustainable dairy farming,” he said.

The farms that Meridian owns are either leased, in some cases to their former owners, or operated by sharemilkers. Milk is supplied to Fonterra.

“Meridian is investing capital to improve the environmental sustainability of these farms,” says Tim Allan.

This capital investment includes providing structures and facilities that will improve the environmental sustainability of the farms (new and replacement fencing, effluent management systems, culverts, better drainage and waterway systems).

“In addition, we are working with sharemilkers and farm lessees to ensure that their management of the farms is aligned with the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord, which was agreed to last year by Fonterra, regional councils, the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.”

Sharemilkers on Meridian farms have been asked to begin implementing by June best environmental practices. This involves using Fonterra’s Market Focused programme for environmental management, which has been customised by Meridian’s farm consultant, Jeremy Savage, to take into account the extensive irrigation that occurs in the lower Waitaki Valley.

Jeremy Savage is also using a customised computer simulation model for feed and pasture management on all of the Meridian-owned farms.

“This computer model allows us to achieve better production with less wastage. It minimises the risk of using too much fertiliser and wasting feed on the farms. Improving feed conversion to milk efficiencies reduces the risk of nutrient runoff from the farms,” says Jeremy Savage.

“Simply, we are trying to achieve a more efficient conversion of feed into milk.”

Tim Allan says this will help ensure that when the time comes to sell this farm-land, it will be at least in better environmental condition that it is now.

In the longer term, some areas of farm-land will be retained for the Project Aqua canal and facilities, if these go ahead. The land not needed for Project Aqua will be sold in a few years when it is no longer required.

Project Aqua is a proposed canal-based hydro-electric scheme in the Waitaki Valley near Oamaru. It would generate enough renewable electricity to power the equivalent of about 375,000 households in an average rainfall year and 250,000 households in a very dry year such as occurred in 1992 (a 1 in 20 year event).

Project Aqua must be commercially viable and environmentally sustainable to proceed. It must cost less than other forms of generation (between 4.5c and 5c per kilowatt-hour). A major potential benefit of Project Aqua is that it could enable irrigation in the Waitaki district.

ENDS

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