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Progress made, more progress needed

Hon Trevor Mallard
Minister for the Environment

26 February 2008 Speech Notes

Embargoed until:10am

Progress made, more progress needed

Launch of the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord Snapshot of Progress Report 2007/2008 , Fonterra, Auckland

Good morning. Thank you for the welcome and the opportunity to speak to you today. I would like to thank officials at the Ministry for the Environment, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Fonterra, Local Government New Zealand and all those involved in compiling progress reports for the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord.

Last month, the Ministry for the Environment presented me with their latest state of the environment report Environment New Zealand 2007. The report provides a timely check up on the health of our environment and charts New Zealand’s journey towards sustainability.

Amongst the wealth of information in this report, there is a remarkable fact: it shows that 17 per cent of our GDP comes from our soil. Our two top export earners – tourism and the agricultural sector rely on our land.

Our environment is vital for our access to international markets – it provides us with our clean and green image that overseas consumers are willing to pay a premium for.

What we do on the land is reflected in the quality of our waterways. It won’t be news to you that agricultural land use has intensified in the past two decades and this has led to increases in fertiliser use, water use, and greenhouse gas emissions.

There is clearly a need to manage our resources more sustainably.

The Accord
The Dairying and Clean Stream Accord is a good industry initiative to lessen the impacts of dairy farming on waterways. Since it was signed in 2003 between the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry for the Environment, Fonterra and Local Government, it has enabled both government and industry to establish points of reference and set voluntary goals.

The 2006/2007 Progress Report released today shows steady progress is being made towards the Accord’s targets in most areas, which is commendable.

Significant progress has been made in adopting nutrient management budgets compared to last season. Fonterra is doing good work with its members in this area. At the same time, I would like to see these budgets being used by all farmers.

It is also good to see improved levels of compliance with regional plan rules for dairy effluent management on last season’s results, although I note that a percentage of farmers continue to perform poorly. Non-complying farmers are letting the industry down. This will need attention.

I would like to challenge the dairy sector to take an even greater leadership role in sustainable land management.

Current management of nutrient inputs and outputs at farm level is simply not enough to reverse decline in water quality. Unless nutrient budgets are developed into nutrient management systems, there can be no significant impact on fertiliser run off.

Farmers need to work hard to minimise farming impacts on water quality, accurately measure nutrient inputs and outputs and improve compliance with effluent discharge regulations.

Last month, I indicated the need for national policies and regulatory instruments in areas considered national priorities, like safeguarding fresh water quality. We are looking into this under the Sustainable Water Programme of Action.

Next steps
What is next for the Accord? I am confident all Accord partners will keep working hard to meet the targets.

We plan to review the Accord by the middle of this year to assess opportunities for improvement, and perhaps accelerate the achievement of targets.

As I said before, more work needs to be done, especially on effluent and nutrient management. This also applies for the target of the regionally significant wetlands. At the forefront of ministers' minds will be the issue of non-complying farmers and how we can actually get their buy-in. Our patience is fast running out.

We congratulate local authorities for using the legal tools they've got to take action when there are breaches of local regulations, and I would urge local authorities – and industry leaders - to step up their vigilance.

From our end, as you know we have invested millions into research that will assist sustainable land management, and we will continue to work on the Sustainable Water Programme of Action. This programme is a commitment to protect our freshwater resources by improving the management framework at all levels. The programme includes a National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and National Environmental Standards.

I am looking forward to a busy year for all of us. Thank you.


ENDS

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