Riparian plantings beat quick-fix product - regional council

Last updated 05:00 08/02/2013

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Riverside planting may not be the magic solution to nitrogen leaching but it was better than using a product that had not been safety-tested, the Taranaki Regional Council says.

Eco-N, used to boost pasture growth and reduce nitrogen leaching, contains an ingredient called dicyandiamide (DCD), which has yet to be subjected to food safety testing.

The product was withdrawn from the market after traces were found in New Zealand milk.

At a council meeting yesterday chief executive Basil Chamberlain said the product had been promoted as a silver bullet to address nitrate leaching issues.

But the best approach was to follow practised methods, such as riparian planting, that had been proven to be effective, he said.

"Anything we do in terms of riparian management is always going to be much more significant rather than a quick fix to the problem," Mr Chamberlain said.

Policy and planning committee chairman Neil Walker said a quick fix was often not the answer.

"Very often it's easy to find magic solutions to things but it really is long term solutions to problems that do it," Mr Walker said.

Mr Walker said an international standard for the accepted level of DCD needed to be established before it could be used without concern.

The issue was not so much food safety, but the ability of standard makers to keep up with progresses in science, he said.

Mr Chamberlain said one concern was how farmers would replace the withdrawn product.

"There is grave concern in some of those regions where this very important tool is being taken out which could mean greater impulse on farming to address this through other means."

A new set of guidelines for dairying which will hand the responsibility for sustainable farming over to farmers themselves was also tabled yesterday.

The sustainable dairying plan includes riparian management, management of nutrients and effluent and water use and will encompass the whole dairy industry.

Mr Chamberlain said the plan for sustainable farming practices was intended to be "voluntary" and "sector-driven" rather than imposed on farmers by the council.

"The accountability is on the dairying sector and the people of New Zealand, rather than regional councils. "It's a commitment from the dairying industry to make sure it's doing its business in a way that looks after our residents' needs."

Since the start of the council's last fresh water plan in 2004 nutrients had plateaued out and there was no trend of continuing deterioration to aquatic environments, he said.

South Taranaki District Councillor Ian Armstrong said he was concerned the plan did not extend to other intensive land users in Taranaki.

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"They have to be addressed, there has to be rules to cover the whole region, I don't see how it's going to mesh."

He said he wanted to ensure all land users were treated similarly.

- Taranaki Daily News

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