Friday, July 1, 2022

Not everyone in Accord

While dairy industry leaders welcomed the draft new Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord, to replace the Clean Streams Accord, environmental groups were not so enthusiastic. The new agreement by all dairy companies, which was announced by DairyNZ, aims to exclude 90% of dairy cattle from waterways by May next year and 100% by 2017. Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy welcomed it as “a real step forward”, showing that “the dairy industry is serious about improving its practices”. It also provides for farms to manage nitrogen (N) levels and has strict conditions for new dairy farm conversions. Annual reporting against progress and independent auditing would give it more transparency and accountability, he said. It will be finalised on August 1.

Meanwhile the Clean Stream Accord snapshot of the 2011/12 season was released showing one of the five targets was achieved and there had been progress towards achieving all the others. But the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) resource policy director, Mike Jebson, said there were still challenges ahead with the report showing management of effluent discharge needs significant improvement.

Ian Brown, chair of the Fonterra Shareholders’ Council (FSC) said it was “a fantastic result and a tangible confirmation of the hard work done by farmers”.

But Forest and Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell said the report showed 11% of all dairy farmers were still seriously breaching their effluent discharge rules and consent conditions.

Environmental Defence Society chair Gary Taylor complained of underperformance on many targets, with just 56% of farms having nutrient management plans and 11% still being in serious breach of their consent conditions.

He praised the dairy industry’s commitment to introduce new best practice guidelines but while he welcomed the new accord’s coverage of all regions and dairy farmers he said the new agreement didn’t enshrine the key lesson Fonterra has had to learn – that there needed to be some way to penalise the small group of farmers who were consistently poor performers.

Green Party environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage similarly said farmers didn't meet the targets of the last accord and the new one was no better in providing clear sanctions for breaches. But Dairy Companies Association (DCANZ) chair Malcolm Bailey said companies would still have the same power as Fonterra did under the old accord to stop collecting milk from farmers who persistently failed to comply with the environmental standards.

Federated Farmers Dairy chair Willy Leferink said the new accord brought into account the irrigation and fertiliser sectors. While the dairy industry had spoken with iwi and groups like Fish and Game, farmers were the ones who would make on-farm investments to translate the agreement into action.

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