Palm kernel 'essential feed'

Last updated 05:00 07/02/2011

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Taranaki farmers will continue to use palm kernel despite the claim by Greenpeace that the practice is destroying rainforests and New Zealand's clean green image.

The response from Federated Farmers comes after five Greenpeace protesters were arrested on Saturday during a 12-hour protest.

Police say the group illegally boarded the bulk carrier Great Motion off Port Taranaki about 6.30am when it was moored in heavy mist.

One male protester attached himself to the anchor chain while four women bolted themselves to the Great Motion's 30m-high cranes.

It was 7pm before the five were successfully removed and arrested.

The man was cut free of the anchor while the vessel was still at sea, New Plymouth area commander Blair Telford said.

This allowed the anchor to be raised and the ship was docked at Port Taranaki with the four women still on the cranes.

"They had bolted themselves to the sub-structure inside the crane towers as well," Mr Telford said.

When the police cut the bolt, the women offered no resistance and were arrested.

"Once they were freed from their shackles they came down willingly," Mr Telford said.

"It was time-consuming but there were no injuries and no damage," he said.

Each has been charged with illegally getting on a ship and were bailed to appear in court on Thursday.

Greenpeace, which carried out similar action at the port last year, is urging Prime Minister John Key to halt palm kernel coming into the country through dairy giant Fonterra.

Yesterday, Taranaki Federated Farmers dairy sector chairman Derek Gibson said the 10,000 tonnes of palm kernel was currently essential feed for the region's 478,000 cows due to drought.

"It's an animal welfare issue because there have been such challenging drought conditions," Mr Gibson said.

No farmer would use it if there was other feed available, he said.

Ideally, the farmers would prefer to use locally produced hay and silage, he said.

It had been a challenging season which had caused a major shortage of feed which affected the whole of the North Island.

Palm kernel was a byproduct of the palm oil industry and used right throughout the world, he said. If not used as cattle feed it would go to waste or be burnt.

It was important for cows, now in-calf, to have plenty of condition on going into winter.

He urged Greenpeace to get their information correct. "We're saying we have ours correct."

Fonterra declined to comment on the protest action.

A Fonterra spokeswoman said the company's position had not changed and directed the Taranaki Daily News to its website.

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There, Fonterra says it shares community concern about tropical deforestation, "which in some cases has been driven by the establishment of palm oil plantations".

However, Fonterra says it has been proactive in ensuring a sustainable supply of palm kernel "and ensuring we do not support deforestation, directly or indirectly".

Fonterra was a member of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil to ensure it was informed on sustainability issues in South-East Asia and "to actively contribute to more robust sustainability certification systems".

"We know there is more work to be done which is why we are closely involved with the RSPO," Fonterra says.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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