Forest & Bird slams dairy pollution report

  • 11/12/2014

A report released yesterday by Dairy New Zealand says there's been progress made on improving the environmental performance of farms.

But the Green Party and conservation group Forest & Bird say it's just greenwash, and the situation isn't improving.

The report looks at the impact of the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord one year on from its implementation. Dairy NZ says it shows there has been "good progress" cleaning up the country's farms.

"We've seen is significant progress around stock exclusion and also the bridging of stock crossings on farms around the country," Dairy NZ environmental policy manager Mike Scarsbrook, who worked on the report, said on Firstline this morning.

"We've seen good progress in effluent management assessment systems and also systems for making sure new dairy conversions are up to speed before they get started. We're also making good progress on riparian management and also the collection of nutrient management data from farms around the country."

But Forest & Bird says the report is misleading.

"[The] report states only 18 farms were found to be significantly non-compliant - just 1 percent of dairy farms in the Taranaki," says Forest & Bird's Kevin Hackwell.

"However, the Taranaki Regional Council recently released a report that showed the council has served 144 abatement notices and 33 infringement notices to dairy farmers in the last year for breaches of dairy farm effluent rules and conditions.

"As we know, things have to be pretty bad before the authorities abandon their usual 'softly softly' approach and actually issue one of these notices.

Dr Scarsbrook says the variation is down to inconsistent monitoring across the country, something Dairy NZ is working to remedy.

"The rates of significant non-compliance, those numbers have been provided to us by the regional councils for this report, and their own regional reporting," he said on Firstline this morning.

"I think we see quite a lot of variation around the country in terms of how the regional councils report significant non-compliance, but I know regional councils are working to get that national consistency.

"Waikato for example, they've got 4000 dairy farms – they don't necessarily monitor every farm, every year, and they tend to target their monitoring in areas where they've had problems in the past. So there is this issue around just how you monitor consistently across the country, those 1200 dairy farms."

Forest & Bird also says Dairy NZ is under-reporting instances of effluent running off into waterways.

"Not letting dairy shed effluent leak into the nearest river or stream is absolutely basic stuff, and yet around one in 10 farmers are still being caught doing just this sort of thing," says Mr Hackwell.

Dr Scarsbrook, a water quality scientist, says in the decade since the Clean Streams Accord was signed, there has been a measurable improvement in our waterways.

"In some catchments that will be related to improvements made on dairy farms, and we saw just a couple of weeks ago the Morgan Foundation River Awards, and some of the rivers that were highlighted in terms of improvements, those improvements have been due to improvements on dairy farms."

Mr Hackwell says polluting farmers are still getting away with warnings, and until councils start prosecuting, nothing will change.

"Other businesses in New Zealand don't get this kind of easy ride, and nor should the dairy industry."

The report covers the 12 months up until May this year. It can be read in full on Dairy NZ's website.

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source: newshub archive