Sustainability of New Zealand's dairy industry under question

One hundred and twenty scientists have met in Christchurch to discuss solutions to climate change.
One hundred and twenty scientists have met in Christchurch to discuss solutions to climate change. Photo credit: Getty

The sustainability of New Zealand's dairy industry is under the spotlight as scientists say current farming systems have reached the limit. 

One hundred and twenty world-leading scientists have met in Christchurch for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a global coalition of scientists and academics to discuss solutions to climate change. 

Lincoln University Associate Professor Anita Wreford says the discussions will provide "positive solutions" on how to improve current farming systems in New Zealand.  

"I'm not saying move away from dairy completely but I think we certainly need to look at other options.

"I think we need a mix of land use, more diversity in our landscapes, different types of products.

 "I'm sure there will always be a place for dairy production here, we have strong grass feed, but I do think the scale that it is reaching at the moment is probably not going to be suitable in the future."

New Zealand is really strong in agriculture having built an international reputation based on our efficiency and productivity, she says. 

"I think we are in a really strong position in terms of these aspects, but we are facing environmental limits around the way we produce currently.  

"We need to think carefully about how we use our land not only for agriculture but for a variety of land uses, what types of things we are producing and they are suited to the climate now."

Minister for Climate Change James Shaw says the research scientists come up with will be "absolutely critical" to New Zealand.

"It is tricky, I mean if it was easy we would have sorted it out already, but every country in the world has a difficult issue or more to deal with in relation to climate change. 

"In New Zealand it is largely between our land use and emission that is the nut that we have to crack."

Scientists will spend the next five days drafting a report that will inform governments on how to best deal with the climate change issues in years to come. 


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