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Rivers get dirtier under Clean Streams Accord

2 October 2008 – Wellington



Forest & Bird media release for immediate use



Rivers get dirtier under Clean Streams Accord

 Waterways in many areas are more polluted than they were five years ago when the voluntary Clean Streams Accord was set up, according to a report released today by Forest & Bird and Fish & Game New Zealand.

“The Dairying and Clean Streams Accord has not only failed to improve water quality but in some areas has allowed rivers and streams to deteriorate further from continued dairy effluent and nutrient run-off,” Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell says.

“The results of this study show that the dairy industry is still not meeting its environmental responsibilities, which undermines the integrity of its products.”

The voluntary accord is not working, according to Fish & Game New Zealand Nelson-Marlborough regional manager Neil Deans. “The evidence is that the dairy industry, regional councils and central government have failed to improve the state of our waterways,” he says.

“Tougher standards and more effective enforcement are needed to improve water quality. And we need to have more input from New Zealand’s environmental watchdogs.”

The accord was signed in May 2003 by Fonterra, Ministers for the Environment and Agriculture and Forestry, and Local Government New Zealand. It aimed to improve the quality of lowland waterways by reducing the amount of dairy effluent and nutrients going into them.

The report by Forest & Bird and Fish & Game New Zealand found that regional councils had very different figures on dairy farmers’ resource consent compliance compared with this year’s Snapshot Report by the Accord partners. Regional council figures give a national average of serious non-compliance of more than 14 per cent, twice the 7 per cent level reported by the Accord partners.

In Waikato, which has half New Zealand’s dairy farms, water quality in rivers and streams is deteriorating. Bacteria in waterways make the water unsuitable for stock to drink in 75 per cent of sites and levels are too high for people to swim safely at 70 per cent of sites, according to an Environment Waikato report.

In Taranaki, which has quarter of New Zealand’s dairy farms, water quality trends are unclear, but water quality in streams decline significantly as they flow through dairy farms.

The Forest & Bird and Fish & Game report also asked regional councils whether Accord targets had been met. No regions reported 100 per cent compliance by dairy farmers in meeting resource consent conditions and regional plans. Few regional councils could confirm that dairy farmers had nutrient management systems, had bridged stream crossings or had fenced wetlands on their farms.


Some regional councils were concerned that they were unable to verify statistics from dairy farmers for Accord reporting.


Forest & Bird and Fish & Game want an independent review of the Accord. Other recommendations are:

·         Input from environmental organisations if the accord is to continue.

·         Stricter targets in improving water quality.

·         Stricter enforcement of targets and effective penalities for poor performers.

·         Consistent, nationwide monitoring of water quality in dairying areas.

·         Consistent, nationwide benchmarks for assessing the accord’s performance.

The Forest & Bird and Fish & Game New Zealand report – Dairying and Declining Water Quality: Why has the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord not delivered cleaner streams? is at http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/conservation/freshwater/Dairying_and_Declining_Water_Quality.pdf








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