'Living Water' initiative with Fonterra and DOC

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 05:00 08/03/2013

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Conservation minister Nick Smith believes a $20 million deal between Fonterra and the Department of Conservation heralds a "new age" of environmentalism.

Mr Smith made the comment during a tightly organised launch at Lake Areare, near Ngaruawahia, yesterday.

He said the relationship between conservationists and farmers had historically been one of protest and confrontation, rather than co-operation and collaboration.

"Ten years ago we had the president of Federated Farmers describing conservationists as economic terrorists, and some in the conservation movement running dirty dairying campaigns. That was getting us nowhere."

The deal is the largest corporate contribution to conservation work New Zealand has ever seen.

DOC, the experts, will undertake the "massive" conservation programme with Fonterra, iwi, and community groups to restore wetland habitats, better control nutrients, reduce pests and weeds and enhance native wildlife.

Five key waterways in major dairying regions around the country will benefit, including the Firth of Thames and Waikato peat lakes: Areare, Ruatuna and Rotomanuka.

Fonterra director John Monaghan said the partners would work together to make those waterways living examples of how dairy farming and natural environments could co-exist.

Nor was it guilt money for the damage dairying had done to waterways, he said.

DOC director general Al Morrison expects more than the $20m will be spent on direct action.

He said DOC and Fonterra were "natural partners" and it had taken too long for them to work side by side.

Mr Monaghan said the work would build on the progress made by Fonterra's catchment care programme over the past three years.

"Working together with DOC is part of Fonterra's Living Water initiative and the long-term commitment we are making to do what's right for the land and waterways in their communities," he said.

But Mr Monaghan said the dairy industry still had work to do.

Waikato farmer Bas Nelis said it was great that Fonterra was working on both sides of the farm gate to make a difference to water quality and the environment.

"Farming is going to be here for a long time ahead of us. I'm still young so I want to look after this farm for the next generation, for my kids, to make sure it is sustainable for the future."

Mr Smith is keen for more businesses with "the right skills and expertise" to help the conservation cause.

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- Waikato Times

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