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Muddy Waters

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, March 18 NZPA - An annual snapshot report released today on the Clean Streams Accord between Fonterra farmers, councils and the Government showed that during the 2008-09 dairy season, non-compliance with regional council rules rose by 25 percent, from 12 percent to 15 percent of farmers.

Farmers in Northland had the worst results, with full compliance listed at 39 percent in the latest year, down from 43 percent in 2008. Compliance in Waikato fell to 41 percent from 48 percent and Canterbury dropped to 43 percent from 46 percent. Otago dropped from 83 percent to 75 percent. Southland improved from 65 percent to 69 percent. Taranaki held steady on 96 percent compliance.

The Green Party has called for the Government to set mandatory standards, and other environmentalists, such as Forest and Bird, have criticised farmer performance. Other opinions include:

FARMERS:

Fonterra Shareholders Council chairman Blue Read said most farmers made the effort to comply with resource consents for effluent discharge, but the overall compliance was still unacceptable.

"This result is extremely disappointing," Mr Read said. "The non-compliance of individual farmers reflects badly on Fonterra, other farmers and the entire industry."

BUREAUCRATS:

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry director general Murray Sherwin said his staff would support the industry to improve compliance levels, but also audit data gathered in the accord snapshots, and help farmers actively manage nutrient inputs and outputs.

COOPERATIVE:

Fonterra's managing director of trade and operations, Gary Romano, said the cooperative would double the resources for helping its 10,500 farmers manage their effluent, with the additional spending of up to a million dollars to boost the number of sustainable dairying advisers.

"Our goal is to halve significant non-compliance with council dairy effluent rules within 18 months, then trending to zero," he said. Annual effluent checks will start in the Waikato, with a national rollout from the start of the 2011 dairy season, and the cooperative could deduct $1500 from a farmer's milk cheque for effluent infringements and $3000 for prosecutions.

LOBBYIST:

Federated Farmers dairy chairman Lachlan McKenzie said he was disappointed by the rise in serious non-compliance from 12 to 15 percent. But he said the industry should be given credit for its accountability because 85 percent of New Zealand's dairy farmers are either fully compliant "or guilty of no more than an administrative breach".

SCIENTIST:

Mike Joy, director of Massey University's centre for freshwater ecosystem management, said the snapshot results were disappointing to all New Zealanders.

"After all the promises of improvement and getting rid of the 'bad guys' compliance is still slipping," he said.

There was nothing in the report about measuring the outcome of the accord on the quality of freshwater, habitat and stream life, and the failings highlighted underestimate the real and increasing impacts of dairying on freshwater. "The real question is: Is the accord working?" he said. "Has there been any improvement in the state of rivers and streams?

"The answer is emphatically no -- and nor is there likely to be, given that the accord is too weak," Dr Joy said.

It targeted larger streams which were relatively easy to fence, and ignored the small feeder streams that would really make a difference.

"Recent reports on native fish and water chemistry have shown significant and increasing declines in the state of waterways in farming catchments."

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