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Jim Sutton At Dairy Launch

Speech Notes 19 September 2001

MARKET FOCUSED launch, Wellington

Ladies and Gentlemen: it gives me pleasure to be here today. I believe the environmental sustainability of the dairy industry is critically important.

Dairying must be one of the most dynamic industries in New Zealand. Farm conversions are happening throughout New Zealand ? particularly in Otago, Southland, Canterbury, and the Hawkes Bay.

These non-traditional dairying areas are becoming increasingly important.

Milk flows have increased, with co-operatives and the Dairy Board reporting record product shipments. Farmers' incomes are up, prices are high, and new value-added products are being developed.

But the spread of intensive dairy farming has led to increased attention on the effects of that farming on the environment. The effects on water are among the most keenly felt.

Water as a resource is often controversial. The east coasts of both islands are finding it increasingly important, particularly as land use changes.

It's not something the industry can ignore.

In New Zealand, we have moved past the thinking of "whatever is good for industry, is good for New Zealand". In agriculture, it used to be that the aim was to make two blades of grass grow where only one grew before, to get two animals grazing where only one grazed before.

Nowadays, the focus is on sustainability ? environmental, social, and economic.

This is a priority for all of us, and something we will be judged on, both here and overseas.

Increasingly, consumers in foreign markets and their regulators will be assessing our use of chemicals, runoffs into waterways, and the pollution of our streams, rivers, and lakes.

These resources are also used by other people ? whether for recreational use or otherwise.

Farming and other rural industry must not damage others' use of the waterways, particularly when those uses were happening a long time before dairy farming. While farmers might not always agree with such groups' spokespeople, recreational users have rights too. I do however offer the critics of the dairy industry a friendly word of advice: just make sure your own backyard can withstand scrutiny, before pointing the finger of righteousness into the backyards of others.

And there is a national interest: what benefit is there to the country in allowing Lake Taupo to lose its extraordinary clarity, undermining the quality of its scenic attractions, famous fishing, and other tourist experiences?

This issue of water usage and the pollution of waterways by dairying is not being ignored. It's one I believe we need to tackle together.

I commend the team that has put MARKET FOCUSED together.

Funded 40 per cent by the Ministry for the Environment ? thank you to my colleague Marian Hobbs here tonight ? and 60 per cent by the dairy industry, MARKET FOCUSED provides an industry standard environmental management system which farmers can use to achieve environmental guidelines.

In the past few weeks, I've had dairy farmers ask me whether "this environment stuff" was important. I assured them, and I can assure you all again tonight, that yes, it is important. Sustainable land use I have often likened to a three-legged stool. Each leg is vital. One is financial ? the profitability of land-based businesses. Another is social ? the maintenance of healthy rural communities. The third is environmental.

This work kit can help farmers to meet their obligations to maintain environmental sustainability. It's an extremely positive development. I welcome the move by industry, regional councils, and government agencies to tackle this issue, and wish you every success.

Thank you.

Office of Hon Jim Sutton

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