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Incentives needed to stop pollution from dairying

31 May 2006

Incentives needed to stop pollution from dairy run-off

Dairy farmers should be congratulated for performing well above targets when it comes to keeping stock out of waterways, but further action is needed to control damaging nutrient and fertiliser runoff to protect streams and rivers from pollution, the Green Party says.

A report released today details progress to date on the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord, a 2003 agreement between dairy farmers, the Ministries of the Environment and Agriculture, and regional councils to work together to achieve clean, healthy water in dairying areas.

"While I have a few questions about the report - such as why a 2004/2005 report is only now being released in 2006, and why an independent audit of the findings only sampled 110 out of over 10,000 farmers - the finding that farmers have already met and exceeded targets to keep stock out of waterways and provide bridges and culverts at crossing points is positive," Green Party Agriculture Spokesperson Sue Bradford says.

"However, it also shows that farmers are lagging seriously behind when it comes to controlling the runoff of nutrients and fertilisers into rivers and streams. This is very concerning, as these substances can severely pollute and jeopardise the quality of our fresh water. Clearly, more needs to be done to encourage farmers to develop nutrient management plans to prevent runoff."

Nutrient management planning, or 'nutrient budgeting' is simple to understand and positive for all concerned, Green Party Environment Spokesperson Nandor Tanczos says. "Nutrient budgeting is win-win because it reduces environmental impacts as well as helping farmers to use fertilisers more efficiently, thus reducing their costs. As is often the case, environmental solutions can also increase profitability," Nandor says.

The Green Party has long advocated a solution to the problem of run-off. "We need a levy on fertiliser, matched by the Government, which would go into a fund that could be accessed by farmers to assist with sustainability measures such as stream-bank planting, developing nutrient management plans, and flood protection," Nandor says.

"Farmers are under constant pressure to increase stock numbers, which in turn increases nutrient runoff, so it is understandable that this aspect of the Accord is proving a challenge. Dairy farming is one of the worst contributors to the rapid degradation of our waterways, so it is good that the industry has recognised the need to address the problem.

"The Government should support farmers by providing incentives for them to improve their performance in this area," Nandor says.


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