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Clean clear water is what matters not fence length

Clean, clear water is what matters, not fence length

Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons is welcoming a snapshot of the Clean Stream Accord that shows that most dairy farmers are taking the first steps asked of them, but warns that its success will be measured by how much pollution is detected, not by how many new fences are put up.

Fonterra, the Ministry for the Environment, the MAF and Local Government New Zealand have released a ‘Snapshot of Progress 2003 / 2004’ on their Dairying and Clean Streams Accord.

“It is impressive that 99 per cent of Fonterra’s suppliers responded to the Accord survey and they are to be congratulated for supporting this initiative,” said Ms Fitzsimons, the Greens’ Environment Spokesperson.

“But the further growth of dairying should only be allowed to happen if there is a serious reversal in the trend that wherever there is more cows, there is lower water quality.

“The Clean Streams Accord should be subject to outcome-based measures, not just input-based ones. It simply isn't enough for this Snapshot to say that the Accord is having an 'impact on the farm', it actually needs to be having impact on the environment.

“The report acknowledges that 99 per cent of farmers have been granted resource consents to discharge effluent in an appropriate manner, but says nothing about the level of compliance with those consents. Unfortunately regional councils are inconsistent and often inadequate in their monitoring and enforcement of resource consent conditions.

“While the report card shows that there has been good progress on keeping stock out of waterways, it also shows that much more could be done to advance sophisticated measures such as farm nutrient budgeting.

“In June NIWA - the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research - reported that most of our lowland rivers and streams are not fit to swim in, let alone to drink. In October the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s report ‘Growing for Good’ found that the application of nitrogen to land has increased by 160 per cent in six years and that much of this lands up in our waterways. Stock can be kept out of streams and riparian margins can act as buffers, but this will all be undone if irrigation or canal-based hydro schemes are allowed to seriously deplete the quantity of water in a river, removing the dilution factor and increasing the concentration of the pollutants that continue to get through.

“Ultimately we will know that the Clean Streams Accord has been a success when water quality measurements show this has all changed and our children can again go down to the local river for a swim.” said Ms Fitzsimons.

The report is online at http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/land/dairying-clean-stream-accord/dairying-clean-streams-accord.pdf.

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