OPINION: The Southland Times editorial (October 7) and a lead article on the same day highlighted the dairy dilemma.
The editorial rightly expressed concern about the rapidly declining state of our estuaries, which are being steadily suffocated by polluting sediments largely washed from farms.
The suffocation of our estuaries is a real worry because of the importance of these environments for the aquaculture industry and as nurseries for commercially important fish. Estuaries are considered one of the most productive ecosystems on earth and it appears that by expanding one industry we are actually compromising others.
The article celebrated the improved compliance from dairy farmers in managing their effluent. While this is indeed worth celebrating it does provide a false sense of security because the compliance mainly relates to dairy shed effluent and which is only about 10 per cent of what is produced.
The bulk of what is excreted by dairy herds gets deposited on the paddocks and much of it gets washed into our rivers when it rains.
Environment Southland warns people to avoid contact with our rivers after any rainfall because of the rapid rise of fecal coliforms and toxic sediment.
The lack of balance shown in weighing environmental costs with economic benefits has been recently exposed through the consent process for the Ruataniwha dam. It appears than any scientific opposition to the irrigation scheme, designed to support greater dairy intensification, was been blocked.
By investing so heavily into the expansion of our dairy industry we are effectively losing the resilience of a mixed economy and are exposing ourselves to the potential risks that come with boom and bust economies. If the worst happens, we will be left with a hugely compromised environment and limited options for other industries to fill the vacuum. Our dependence on the dairy industry is becoming an addiction that we need to acknowledge and manage appropriately.
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