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Dairy NZ says won't tolerate being 'whipping boy' over urban complaints about water quality any more; Fish and Game calls for water inquiry

Dairy NZ says won't tolerate being 'whipping boy' over urban complaints about water quality any more; Fish and Game calls for water inquiry
'We're not going to take it anymore.'

By Lynn Grieveson

Dairy NZ says the dairy industry is no longer willing to be the "whipping boy" for any decreasing water quality of New Zealand's streams and rivers, while Fish and Game has called for a public inquiry into the water quality issue.

Both groups appeared before Parliament's Local Government and Environment Select Committee on Thursday to discuss the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment's report on water quality, which described the problem of nitrogen leaching into waterways.

Chairman of DairyNZ John Luxton, standing in for Rick Pridmore, Dairy NZ's Strategy and Investment Leader for Sustainability, said some of our most polluted streams and rivers were in urban areas.

"Sometimes the industry I think gets blamed for the wider problems of increasing population and increasing demand on water supply," he said.

"Farmers are very much aware of the disconnect with the urban community. We watch on TV and they talk about dairy cows and rivers and streams and they show old photos and they are normally beef animals."

"The dairy industry is the whipping boy for some of those things, but I have to say the industry doesn't tolerate it any longer."

Luxton Pridmore said the dairy industry acknowedged that water quality was a significant issue and that intensification on areas with vulnerable or "leaky" soils did involve water quality risks, but he said it was "not a problem everywhere".

"It's not that situation everywhere. Many areas still can absorb more (intensification)," he said.

"It's a trade-off. This industry now is about a third of New Zealand's total export earnings so every New Zealander is benefiting from the outcome."

He said Council's were "well aware of the risks" of allowing dairy conversions in vulnerable areas and had moved to restrict them in, for example, certain parts of Canterbury and Southland so a blanket ban on conversions on land with "leaky soils" was not necessary.

Nitrogen not an issue if water is clear?

Dairy NZ's Environment Policy Manager, Mike Scarsbrook, was critical of the focus on nitrogen, saying that when it leaches into waterways it "may or may not cause problems".

"Not all of the nitrogen excreted to land (by farm animals) is going to get into waterways," he said.

"Clearly some of it is lost through natural processes and through mitigation options farmers put in place, but also not all the nitrogen that does end up in waterways creates water quality outcomes that are problematic. This is because nitrogen in itself is not necessarily a cause of water quality problems."

Scarsbrook said nitrogen creates problems if it reaches levels toxic to animals, or if it combines with phosphorus to result in algal blooms.

He said research by Dairy NZ looking at 77 waterways over a 22 year period found that, despite significantly increased nitrate levels in many of the sites, water clarity improved or was stable at all except one.

He suggested that many communities would be happy about the quality of the water in their rivers and streams as long as it looked clear, and in that case the nitrate levels would not be the major issue.

"We have to say 'what is it that the community actually wants in terms of water quality for particular sites?'. It may be that the increasing trends in nitrate are the major issue for the community in that waterway and that's what we need to focus on addressing. For other communities, the increasing clarity may be the thing they actually resonate with them the most and that's a really good sign. So we have to link the indicators of water quality to the values that the community is actually interested in."

Luxton Pridmore agreed, giving the example of the upper Waikato River where pine forest has been converted to dairy.

"So we are seeing in the Waikato River increasing trends for nitrogen, but at the same time in the hydro lakes in that system and further down the river we are seeing decreasing trends in the amount of algal biomass in the river," he said.

"So at a time when nitrogen and land intensification has increased ... the amount of algae in the water has actually decreased. So from a community perspective who want to swim and row and kayak on the river that's actually a positive signal despite the chopping down of forest and converting into dairy."

'Farmers are victims in the corporatisation of dairying'

Bryce Johnson, Fish and Game NZ Chief Executive, also appeared before the Local Government and Environment Select Committee to call for a full public inquiry into water quality, saying it was "too important to be left to just box on becoming increasingly politicised."

Alison Dewes, Agri-Business consultant for Fish and Game, said dairying was leaving the "sweet zone" it had historically been in, and needed to consider whether the drive to increase production had reached its limits.

She said farmers were increasingly reliant on imported feed and faced increased finance costs, skilled labour shortages and the early effects of climate change as well as water constraints and increasing costs to mitigate environmental impacts.

"We are effectively no longer 'low cost, down under' and are losing our competitive edge" as we "push into vulnerable landscapes", she said.

Dewes said many traditional family farmers who were "chasing quality of life" rather than profit had suffered through the "corporatisation" of dairying and the drive to intensification.

"A lack of clear rules, targets and measures and changing enforcement is leading to farmers being, in my view, victims. They haven't got clear limits and frameworks".

"As a result in my view we are having a lot of farmers burying their head in the sand. They are really quite scared about this change." Dewes claimed a study of Waikato farms showed the "most resilient farms actually appeared to be the ones which were lower stocked, so getting back to that sweet zone we probably were at 20 or 30 years ago."

"In general we tend to see these more profitable farms that are resilient in the face of volatility are actually carrying around 15% to 20% less bodyweight per hectare."


Corrected to record that John Luxton was standing in for the unwell Rick Pridmore at the hearing.

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I don't think dairy NZ have as much choice as they think. look at the map on page 4, and whip them.

Thank you again AndrewJ
Your links are always worth a look. Keep them coming.

Not just commercial farms Aj - "All farms over 5ha have to establish a “baseline” for nitrogen loss which is the average loss 2009-2103 as calculated by Overseer using nationally accepted protocols for input data."   This may catch a few 'it's not me, only dairy farmers' types out.

Getting a *lot* of creeks and streams bursting their banks with that last few days of rain.   Without the weeds being controlled with grazing, the hydrophytes (water plants) significantly reduce the carrying capacity and flow of the bed.   Also means we're getting magnitudes more surface water around the riparian strips, causes a lot of vegetation loss (which is getting to be an issue, when it ends up in lumps and causes different scouring patterns.)

I have heard farmers in Southland make the same comments re floods cowboy.  The idiocy of powers that be, attempting to have a 'one size fits all' policy.  

I have the same problem on my place weeds are a nightmare and do i use Roundup every year maybe twice? My floodgates get blocked and wiped out every time it rains.  I need my sheep back.

Sometimes I wonder Aj if it's a case of 'be careful what you wish for' with some of the rules. ;-)
I don't have a problem with mitigation but recently I (along with other farmers) was asked to review a riparian planting guide for farmers.  I suggested that they discuss with RC the suggestion that farmers concentrate on only planting up the north side of waterways.  This is the side that provides the most benefits to weed free etc waterways.  I was told that they had had others make the same suggestion.  I applauded the organisation (who was working with RC) on getting farmer feedback to the practicality of the Guide.  Overall, I thought it was the most sensible, easy to follow guide I have seen.

Be very careful - use of herbisides is waterways is restricted usage.

As everyone knows, debating over the purchase value of a dairy farm.
What it terms of capex, do people think is reasonable for such a business (excluding buying for capital gain).  1%? 2%? of net av. profits?

Cowboy, if you get my email of DC I know someone who can help, even if just to talk on phone.

I've requested emails from the admins before.... don't even get a reply.

In Southland some fishos are find some unintended consequences of the riparian planting schemes - they can no longer fish (fly fishing) some sections of waterways.  This is due to plants growing so closely, they can't access the waterway, and/or they can't cast their line from a bank without it becoming tangled in vegetation.

Most of the rivers and stream run through farmers land and whether they like it or not they have the resposibility of making sure that the people down stream get clean water.

Which in my case is caused by beef farm feedlots above me which are un consented.

CErtainly...lets discuss the fee you're willing to pay for this service....

'Farmers are victims in the corporatisation of dairying'    
If only we could transform this current culture obsessed with expansion into one of calm consolidation of an industry which is in a prime position to focus on the good things in life like debt reduction, waterway protection and wage appreciation which helps everyone; dosen't it?

We are all victims or corporatisation

Lets do something about it. End corporatisation. Phase it out. Get it out! We know it only serves a few.
Delete these private corporate banks. They are the ones causing corporatisation and all its negative externalities. They fund it, feed it, encourage it, exacerbate it, milk it, masturbate it. Then we can get back to that sweet spot of wholesome agriculture and enterprise.

I will change direction ever so slightly.
Not that I mean to belittle Dairy NZ.
Judging by the news today, water is one of our greatest problems, in the cities, the towns, hell...anywhere it actually rains.
Who cares.
No appears...then gets forgotten.
It is either a flood or a drought.
We can actually  fix both, but it will take a bit of concerted effort.
The wasted space that is this Government should stop all work on playing Games and stop building Velodromes, Cycleways, Stadiums, and the like and concentrate on  digging a few drains, ditches, sewers, dredging rivers, lakes and any other water receptors to cater for the storms that continually will befall us, seem to befall us, more and more.
These are not now one in a hundred years events.
Neither are droughts.
Low lying events, such as who had lunch with who, who had tea with such and such, who is joining whose shonky Political Party, should take a back seat and this country should get united.
It appears civil defence is no defence. So Civil disobedience would probably fit the Bill.
Stop paying your rates, your taxes, hell even your mortgage.
The banks and the government would soon come to the Dam Party, the Lake Party, The put that in yer PIPE Party, but don't smoke it.
That way someone may actually wake up and address the true problems of No Zealand and do something about real issues, not over priced houses in snarled up Auckland.
Who cares about the damn things, when water is coming in through the roof, the windows, the businesses, hell knows where else.
Even the Sea Walls it seems cannot cope.
Neither can the Rivers.
Issue widespread an Aussie Digger, a Kubota, a Japanese or Chinese one would do. hell anyones, would do, even a spade.
Get digging. Get trenching, get dredging, get piping, but stop playing silly games.
(The Internet is just a waste of Broadband and Chorus's time and our money)
They could get with the program, so could you....Mr Key.
Get digging.
It will also help out in a drought and therefore the Dairy situation...etc etc..
Set your priorities.
Say no to floods and droughts, yer can even have a go at a Digger, but not on the footy or the sports field.
Nuff said.
Anyone out there listening...??.
Make it a "Voting Issue"...then they might., green, blue, whatever yer dam persusaion.

Cities tend to be a long way downstream, most at the termination of rivers, dairy farms are going further and further up river. Um...............

Heathcote, Avon and Hutt rivers don't have a lot of farms around them. ;-)
Proactive Regional Councils, such as Southland, have moved on from blaming solely dairy for water problems and are moving towards expecting ALL communities to take responsibility.  I understand they were met with howls of 'but it will cost us millions', when they told the Councils in their area that they HAVE to sort out their sewage and storm water discharges.  I also understand the ES reply went along the lines 'the farmers have paid to upgrade their systems, now it's your turn'.  It has also been suggested to me 'watch the rates rises as a result.  Urban people are about to find out that they are not exempt from the costs of cleaning up their water pollution'.

Most of us farming can afford to pay for some form of water improvement technology. Councils in many towns are wanting to spend money on more trendy vote catching improvements. A lot of ratepayers are on the bones of their bum and don't have any disposable income left.
 They could borrow through LGFA but council debt is becoming a sensitive issue. Debt is being used to pay for things that ratepayers either cannot afford now, or are not prepared to pay for today. The never never comes around sooner than one thinks.
 What should happen is councils to be forced back to core spending as priority, don't hold your breath. With over one in four Kiwis not born here and most of them living in AKL, I suspect we will all be tapped out while we get to pay for AKL infrastructure upgrades.

CO, Im hoping the Chinese didn't do this on WMP?
Those risky Chinese financing deals -- China's made them on soybeans, too. DTN China Correspondent Lin Tan explained in an article in late January that some Chinese importers used soybean import contracts to access credit in China's tight lending environment. Here's an explanation from that article:
"Companies have found they can get credit from the bank much easier by using soybean import contracts as collateral because it's normal import business. For example, a soybean importer signs a contract to buy beans, takes it to the bank and gets a loan. Often, they sell the beans to another crusher, or if the price is right, they'll cancel the contract and use the funds for other purposes.";jsessionid=1E30...

Still can't around the fact that more and more animals and more and more people mean more and more crap in the rivers
I am an advocate of non-growth, that growing our population is the wrong thing to do and I am an advocate of not sticking more and more animals on the land to the point that they cannot be fed off that land and we have to import stuff like PKE. If you have to import food for them, then you can't support them or deal with the effluent as there is not enough land! Simple, really

Population in NZ could be fixed by saying once you get to the age of say, 70, no medical interventions, such as drugs/surgeries for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart, cancer etc will be administered.  Medical interventions are what keeps a lot of the elderly in NZ alive. I personally know of some elderly (>77yrs) who are choosing not to be treated for cancer and heart disease.  If you truly believe in non growth of population, you would also accept that the old have to make way for the young, and nature will decide who lives and who dies.  But some who advocate lower population also want famine, disease, war etc to become obsolete, yet this is what in the past naturally reduced population.  
The charts on census data ethnicity shows the ethnicities with the greatest percentage of <25yr olds are Maori and Pacific ethnicities.  Raegun are you going to go and tell these people they have to reduce their breeding habits?  

Yes, that is exactly what I will be suggesting to them. And as for outstaying my welcome on the planet, I do not want to become the subject of a cartoon I saw some years ago.
On the doctors couch was a wizened and clearly unhealthy old man and the doctors was saying, "You know those extra 20 years that I said you would live if you gave up drinking, smoking and your wild ways? Well, these are them".

raegun, I believe that we will see a paradigm shift in ag practices in some areas with the introduction of nutrient limits - and not just dairy farming. Arable, sheep, beef and horticulture will also be impacted.  At least in dairy, as farmers we have had the last five years especially, of coming to grips with mitigation etc.  No other primary/ag industry has had that focus.  Watch for science data that will be coming out in the future that may blow some myths re industry causes of water pollution out of the water.
The govt has done a study in Southland of what could be done to improve water quality.  It concluded that ALL stock should be kept out of waterways.  ES did appraised the economic affordability of sheep farmers to fence off waterways - $243m.  It concluded the sheep farmers could not afford to do it. While it would improve the ecoli readings in waterways (in some cases significantly), the cost/benefit was not acceptable.
I spoke recently to a dairy farmer who has a 3.5 cows/ha stocking rate and uses pig and chicken manure on his farm. (He lives near a piggery). Uses maize silage, grown on the farm and has a N leaching in Overseer of 24.  This is considerably less than lower stocked farms using nitrogen and other solid fertilisers.  So less cows doesn't always equate to better environmental outcomes.  It is more complex than that.  :-)

And that, I am guessing, is a problem of too many damned pigs and chickens being raised intensively in too small a space, producing too much effluent for the land to cope with. What do otherwise do with the waste. Less of them would be less effluent on the land as well.
Absolutely everything seems to come back to one thing, we are trying to feed far too many people on limited land (the world that is)

CO - I think some of the Farm Environmental Plans are going to be so scientific that most people are not going to have the necessary skill, knowledge etc to understand.
I think there will be numerous cases where it is science vs science similar to ACC's model where claimants vs ACC have Doctor vs Doctor reports.

You could be right ;-)

Ultimately the lowering of capital values for dairy farms will cause or be caused by (which is which cause or effect?) of the cost of real waterway quality protection and preservation.
Time to have a plan longer term that gradually lowers capital values to allow for  user pays recovery and to prevent new developments being made without that obligation.
Farmers should not blame townies for the water woes except Hamilton because the rest of the big ones may have a problem within but being on or close to the coast it is the ocean that bears the brunt of outflows.

Not just dairy values BB - ALL ag will show that drop.  Values of Sheep farms suitable for conversion, are reported to be affected in Southland due to Plan change 13.  
In Canterbury every farm 5.5ha or larger will require a nutrient budget.  This will catch a lot of lifestyle properties/horticulture etc