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Dairying Industry Threatens Waterways

Media Release
Wednesday 28 March 2001


The dairy industry turning a blind eye to its impacts and inaction by Environment Canterbury are a serious threat to waterways and groundwater, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society says.

“The industry’s focus on export returns while ignoring the environmental damage it causes is irresponsible,” Forest and Bird field officer, Eugenie Sage said.

“The Resource Management Act has mechanisms which would allow Environment Canterbury to control the impacts of dairying (eg through regional rules in a regional plan) but the Council has failed to use them.

“The absence of a water management plan for Canterbury means that the industry is expanding with little thought for the environmental consequences – gross pollution of waterways, nitrate contamination of groundwater and rivers, and over allocation of water from rivers and groundwater for irrigation.”

More water is allocated for irrigation in Canterbury than anywhere else in New Zealand. Around 70 % (400, 091 ha) of all irrigated land in New Zealand is in Canterbury. The region’s farmers use more than three times the amount of water from local rivers and groundwater as their Otago counterparts, the next largest users of water. Sixty one per cent of irrigated land in Canterbury is growing pasture with 25 % used for arable

“The spiralling demand for water, particularly to grow grass for dairy cows is not sustainable and is creating intolerable pressure on the region’s rivers and groundwater.

“The large scale conversion to dairying disregards the strong likelihood of Canterbury becoming hotter and drier through climate change,” Ms Sage said.

“Considerably more effort needs to go into changing land management practices to stabilise or reduce the demand for water and to use what is available more efficiently.”

“The dairy industry needs to get serious about promoting good land and water management. Dairy companies should require their suppliers to meet strict environmental criteria, including fencing off all waterways and wetlands from stock and protecting riparian vegetation so that it buffers waterways from the effects of contaminated run-off. Companies and Environment Canterbury should be discouraging dairying in water short catchments and in areas where waterways and groundwater are vulnerable to pollution.”

Contact : Eugenie Sage ph 03 3666 317(wk) or 3371 251 (hme)

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