Dairying sector gets tough on clean water, pollution

Last updated 05:00 20/02/2013

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A new-look, tougher version of the Clean Streams Accord has been created by the dairy industry, to improve the environmental performance and image of dairy farmers.

DairyNZ and the country's dairy companies have released a new blueprint for managing dairy farming's impact on the environment.

DairyNZ chairman John Luxton said it was a "broader and more comprehensive" commitment than the previous Clean Streams Accord.

The Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord is now out for feedback from farmers and other groups. The aim is for it to be finalised and formally launched in May, in time for the 2013-14 dairy season.

In key changes, all dairy farmers will be included in environmental targets, not just Fonterra suppliers. All dairy cattle will have to be excluded from waterways and wetlands by set dates, and new independent audits will be introduced to ensure farmers meet the targets and "to ensure transparency and robustness", Luxton said.

The new agreement will replace the Clean Streams Accord, which was developed in 2003 with commitments that ended last year. That accord was between Fonterra, and central and local government.

"We're stepping up as an industry with this new accord to take responsibility for driving change and measuring progress towards our environmental goals," Luxton said.

The main signatories to the new accord are DairyNZ, the Dairy Companies Association of NZ (DCANZ) and all dairy companies - Fonterra, Miraka, Open Country, Tatua, Synlait and Westland.

Other parties and industry bodies are expected to sign up as friends and supporting partners, to help farmers meet the commitments. These may include regional councils, iwi, government agencies and the fertiliser and irrigation sector. Federated Farmers has already committed to being a supporting partner.

In a key change, the accord will involve all of New Zealand's 12,000 dairy farmers, not just Fonterra's 10,500 farmer shareholders.

Some companies have already signalled that many of the accord commitments will be conditions of supply specified in supply contracts.

The accord's new targets to get cattle out of waterways include:

90 per cent of dairy cattle excluded from waterways by May 31, 2014 and 100 per cent by May 31, 2017.

100 per cent of dairy cattle excluded from wetlands by May 31, 2014.

Other matters such as planting of waterways, environmental standards for converting farms to dairy and improving water and nutrient use efficiency are included for the first time.

DairyNZ said support systems were being put in place to ensure farmers had the support and advice to meet the new commitments.

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Luxton said the new accord had been discussed for months with various groups, including Federated Farmers.

"We're now releasing the Accord as we move into further wider engagement with farmers and other stakeholders over the next couple of months," he said.

DCANZ chairman and Fonterra director Malcolm Bailey said dairy companies will discuss the new commitments with farmers over the coming months.

"Fonterra, supported by DairyNZ, is planning 50 meetings around the country with its suppliers from March 4-15. Other companies, supported by DairyNZ, will also be talking through the details of the accord with their farmer suppliers over the coming months."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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