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Fonterra insults environment, and farmers

06 March 2009

Fonterra insults environment, and farmers

A proposal to withhold a tiny portion of the milk payout payments from polluters shows that Fonterra is still not serious about promoting responsible farming and cleaning up rivers, the Green Party said today.

"Fonterra's proposal is less than a slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket for polluters, and is an insult to the many farmers who are doing the right thing", said Green Party Co-Leader Russel Norman.

"The big industrial polluters will ignore it, the environment will wear the cost, and those farmers doing the right thing will continue to have their reputations tarnished by the bad eggs.

Fonterra's 'Effluent Improvement System' contains a milk payout fine of $1500 for farmers who receive an infringement notice for polluting rivers and streams, and $3000 if prosecuted. Fonterra's target is to halve 'significant non-compliance' by 2011.

Dr Norman said, "The fines are insignificant, and the target is pathetic - this is illegal activity for goodness sake.

"An incentive to farm responsibly that would be taken seriously by the industrial polluters would be a fine per kilogram of milk solids. With persistent offenders, Fonterra must simply cancel their supply contract.

"A repeat drink-driver loses their license, but Fonterra and the Government allow persistent polluters to continue despoiling our rivers and streams, threatening water supplies and our tourism industry.

"Many of the worst farms are multi-million dollar giant industrial operations for whom $3000 is peanuts. In August 2007, the 4500-cow Taharua Farm in Hawkes Bay was convicted for breaching its effluent resource consents, Dr Norman noted. The operators were found to be running 1500 more cows on their farm than they had consent for. The extra effluent drained into the Mohaka River, which is protected by a Water Conservation Order for its outstanding natural values.

"For Taharua Farm, a $3000 fine would have been less than 0.1% of their $5 million turnover - nothing compared to the additional $1.5million of income they received from the 1500 illegal cows", Dr Norman said

"However, a fine of even a tiny 20c per kilogram of milk solids produced would have cost Taharua $220,000 - something they could not ignore.

Rivers and streams in rural areas continue to decline nationwide - an Environment Waikato report last year found that: "Monitoring of rivers and streams shows that levels of bacteria make water unsuitable for stock to drink in 75 per cent of sites, and too high for people to swim safely in 70 per cent of sites." (p4)

Dr Norman concluded, "Clean rivers and successful dairy farms can co-exist, and the many farmers who comply with the law, who fence and plant riparian strips prove it can work".


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