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Farmers could do better to clean up their act

7 November 2006 - Wellington

Forest and Bird media release for immediate use

Farmers could do better to clean up their act

Forest & Bird welcomes Federated Farmers’ proposal to reduce environmental impact of nutrient loss from farms by 10% in 10 years – but says they should aim to do much better.

Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell says it is good to see Federated Farmers acknowledging that nutrient loss is a problem, but they need to set much more ambitious targets if they are to make significant improvement to its environmental impact.

“A target of just 1% reduction a year is not trying hard enough – and is going to see very little improvement in environmental terms. Aiming for a 10% reduction in five years would be a much more meaningful target. We need bold action, not timid targets.”

Recent criticism of the high “food miles” of New Zealand’s primary produce exports to Europe show that international markets are increasingly demanding that products meet high environmental standards, Kevin Hackwell says.

“If we want to counter the possible backlash to our exports on the grounds that high food miles mean they are not environmentally friendly, we need to make sure our clean and green record at home on the farm really stacks up.”

While genuine moves by some farmers to reduce environmental impact – such as fencing off waterways and wetlands, erosion control and reduction in effluent and nutrient run-off – are a good start, the agricultural sector has a long way to go to mitigate its impact on our waterways, Kevin Hackwell says.

Nutrient run-off and effluent from farms remains a major contributor to the poor health of many of New Zealand’s streams, rivers and lakes.

For example, a recent survey by Environment Canterbury found that less than half of farms complied with effluent discharge consents.

“We welcome all attempts by farmers to clean up their act, and look forward to seeing positive changes. But they need to set the bar higher if they really want to make a difference – both for the environment and for the future of New Zealand exports.”


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