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PCE farming report at critical time

Fri, 05 Nov 2004

PCE farming report at critical time for Canterbury water

A report into the environmental impact of intensive farming by Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Morgan Williams, is especially relevant to Canterbury according to Forest and Bird

"The report released yesterday has confirmed what environmental groups have been saying for years - that current farming practices are having serious environmental effects, particularly on our waterways," said Forest and Bird's Christchurch Field Officer Tony Lockwood.

"Canterbury uses 61% of all water allocated in New Zealand. Irrigated land in Canterbury more than doubled from 150,000 ha in 1985 to 350, 000 ha in 1999," he said.

"The report confirms that the clean green image used by New Zealand to market products overseas is far from the truth. Few of Canterbury's lowland lakes, rivers and streams are fit to swim in let alone drink out of, while some groundwater sources used for drinking supplies have been polluted by nitrates," he said.

"The intensification of farming is the driving force behind water quality problems in the region," he said. "More stock means more grass to feed them and more effluent to get rid of".

"Growing more grass means more water and more nitrogen fertilizer, but pouring water on land with high concentrations of stock effluent and nitrogen inevitably means some ends up in the water ways, which are no longer carrying enough flow to dilute it because of the irrigation demand."

Mr Lockwood said he was pleased to see Federated Farmers North Canterbury president Harry Schat was reported in the Press yesterday as acknowledging that there was an element of greed in the efforts of some farmers to make the most of their land and it would be fair to expect calls for farmers to reduce stocking rates.

Mr Lockwood said Dr William's report was timely for Canterbury because people had a real chance to address the issues through Environment Canterbury's Natural Resources Regional Plan.

"We hope that the people of Canterbury will write to Environment Canterbury and make it clear that they want strong rules managing the intensification of land use so that our waterways can recover. We trust that the farming industry now accepts why such rules are necessary.


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