Opinion: Farmers need to clean up their act

  • 21/01/2019

By Graham Carter, president of the Federation of Freshwater Anglers

OPINION: The article on Newshub, 'Opinion: No more cheap shots at dairy farmers over water quality' by Tim Mackle, CEO of Dairy NZ, shows that he really doesn’t understand all of the issues.

There is no lack of understanding about what modern farming is all about when you can visibly see raw dairy effluent running into creeks and streams.

His statement, "the simple reality these days is that no dairy cow can get into a stream thanks to dairy farmers having fenced off 97 percent of significant waterways on farms" is complete rubbish as there are many waterways still very accessible.

He needs to stop the blame game.

We acknowledge there are some farmers who are doing their bit to tidy up the effluent run-off into streams and rivers and they get our applause.

However there are corporate dairy farmers who have done, and are doing, everything in their power to sidestep and make excuses as to why they don't need to comply with council regulations.

An example is a Waikato farmer in who owns two large dairy farms. He has been warned several times by council for non-compliance of feed pads and allowing vast amounts of effluent to run into drains which then run into the Waikato River.

He point blank refuses to resolve the issues and blames his two managers and says that it's their fault and they should do the required repairs which are not part of their contract and are his responsibility.

They are concerned that if they dob him in they will lose their contracts albeit knowing that they are complicit.

I also know of other farmers that have the same attitude. There are effluent ponds that leak, and effluent irrigators that are operated close to and flow into drains and creeks.

Planting riparian strips is a waste of time when the land simply cannot deal with the volume of effluent.

You only need to drive around the countryside and look into the many drains and creeks to see for yourself. These drains and creeks are disgusting and while the councils are at fault also, you can't take it away from these culprits.

Fonterra, Dairy NZ and others that run PR campaigns telling New Zealand what a wonderful group of people they are, are a disgrace. Instead they should be refusing to pick up the milk and break contracts of supply or run a 0800 HOT LINE that's protects the farm workers.

When you look back at what a wonderful state our streams and creeks were in 20-30 years ago to the degraded state they are in now is disgraceful.

Dairy NZ and Mr Mackle need to step up and take action against these corporates rather than defending them. Dairy farmers have lost their social licence to farm as it's cheaper to spend money on spin than it is to spend money on cleaning up their act.

Mr Mackle is correct when he says they we all need to step up, but industry and our towns are a far cry from what the intensified dairy industry has done.

Graham Carter is  President of the Federation of Freshwater Anglers.