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Greens Call For Enforceable Regulations On Farm Effluent

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Russel Norman
Russel Norman

Wellington, March 13 NZPA - Release of a progress report yesterday on the voluntary "clean streams accord" showed it had failed and enforceable water quality standards were needed, Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said.

The 2007-8 progress report released by the Government showed that 11 percent of farms did not comply, even though the biggest dairy company has given farmers help in meeting effluent disposal targets.

The report found the major area of concern was dairy effluent compliance.

The accord was a voluntary partnership between Fonterra, Ministry for the Environment, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Local Government New Zealand, on behalf of regional councils.

It was introduced in 2003 after a fierce campaign by environmentalists against "dirty dairying" began to attract unfavourable publicity.

"Good farmers deserve better -- their bad neighbours must be forced to clean up waterways," Dr Norman said.

In the Waikato, 75 percent of waterways tested were unsafe for even stock to drink, let alone humans, and 70 percent were not safe for swimming, he said.

And in another major dairying area, Southland, the regional council there had to employ a special protection officer to combat damage to the internationally recognised Waituna wetland from cow effluent and intensive dairying.

"The accord has made no meaningful improvement to compliance, and Fonterra proposes to weaken the accord target of 100 percent compliance, to just an aim of improving non-compliance by 50 percent by 2011, after eight years of failure," he said.

Fonterra last week threatened to hold back $1500 from the milk payout for farmers who received infringement notices, and $3000 if the farmer was prosecuted. The average Fonterra farmer last season received a milk payout of more than $800,000.

The company said the penalties would not be introduced until the 2010-2011 season, with a deadline of August 2011 for half the delinquent farmers to meet the guidelines.

Local Government national council spokesman Stephen Cairns said that full compliance with regional council dairy effluent rules was 70 percent, up from 68 percent the previous season.

He said self-management under the accord was the key to achieving environmental benefits rather than relying solely on regulations.

"As dairy farmers become more educated about the advantages of environmentally-friendly dairying, New Zealand will reap the benefits of better environmental outcomes," Mr Cairns said. He said a small minority of farmers might need the "wake-up call" of penalties imposed by Fonterra.

Agriculture Minister David Carter said no farmer had the right to pollute' and that the small numbers of dairy farmers who ignored effluent disposal requirements were testing the patience of the nation and risked damaging the reputation of the dairy industry. "The voluntary nature of the accord is not a reason to ignore it," he said.

But the Forest and Bird environmental lobby said the levels of serious non-compliance over discharge of dairy farm effluent had been miscalculated by the report released.

Forest and Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell said there were four regions (Northland, Manawatu-Wanganui, Wellington and Canterbury) where serious non-compliance was 20 percent or more.

"In Wellington the level of serious non-compliance has risen from last year's publically-reported 2 percent to a staggering 28 percent reported this year," he said.

The minority of dairy farmers who thought they could get away with poor environmental performance were breaking the law and degrading the quality of waterways, as well as letting down the farmers who did comply.

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