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New dairy farmers’ accord misses key lesson

20 February 2013

New dairy farmers’ accord misses key lesson

Forest & Bird cautiously welcomes Dairy NZ’s announcement of a draft new Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord today, for its commitment to engaging all dairy farmers to adopt best practice standards to improve water quality standards.

The new accord will replace the 2003 Clean Streams Accord that expired last year, and applies to all dairy companies not just Fonterra as under the previous agreement.

“The key thing that 10 years of the Clean Streams Accord has shown is that if providing encouragement and assistance fails, it is important that the poor performers are penalised for not meeting their requirements,” says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell.

“The latest report from the Clean Streams Accord showed 11 per cent of all dairy farmers are still seriously breaching their effluent discharge rules and consent conditions. Fonterra has learnt that having penalties for non-compliance encourages those who consistently fail to meet targets to lift their game.

“This lesson that Fonterra has learnt needs to be applied to the other dairy companies and their farmer suppliers.”

“The new Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord will cover almost every dairy farmer in the country. That should be better for the environment as we’ll see more efforts everywhere to reduce nutrient run-off and exclude dairy cattle from waterways and drains.

“It is good that the new accord has expectations to reduce water use for dairy shed wash down and milk cooling. However, it is disappointing that the accord does not set itself any targets for achieving those reductions,” Kevin Hackwell says.

“Given the recommendations of the Land and Water Forum and the requirements of the National Policy Statement on Fresh Water, there is a real risk that many of the new accord’s expectations and requirements will be lower than regional council rules that will ensure water quality is maintained or improved.”

The new accord has been released for farmer and other stakeholders’ feedback before being finalised in the next few months.

With the majority of New Zealand’s lowland freshwater unsafe for swimming, Forest & Bird hopes that the final accord will be a tighter and more comprehensive commitment that will make a real difference to water quality.

ENDS

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