Taranaki dairy farmers lead way in wetlands protection

Taranaki is the only region in the country to have fenced almost all its significant wetlands on dairy farms.

The Taranaki figure of 90 per cent is significantly better than the rest of New Zealand. Three other regions have fenced half their wetlands, 10 regional councils have identified and defined them and three are yet to do so.

The figures are revealed in the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord snapshot of the 2011-12 dairy season issued yesterday.

The Taranaki Regional Council recognised the importance of the region's 26 wetlands on dairy farms a long time ago and worked one-on-one with farmers to fence and protect them, Fonterra shareholders' councillor Nick Barrett, of New Plymouth, said.

The snapshot shows Taranaki is one of just four regions with a high level of full compliance by farmers with regional effluent disposal rules. The figure of 93 per cent for the 2011-12 season had fallen from a high of 96 per cent in 2007-08.

Mr Barrett said Taranaki's high compliance stemmed from the strong relationship the TRC had developed with farmers.

Taranaki dairy farms now had two environmental inspections a year, with visits from both the regional council and Fonterra.

Across the country, full compliance varied between 38 and 95 per cent and increased overall to 73 per cent from 69 per cent in 2010/11.

Significant non-compliance fell to 10 per cent from the 2009/10 high of 16 per cent.

Taranaki beat the 2012 target of providing bridges or culverts at 90 per cent of regular stock crossing points, with its figure of 97 per cent since 2007-08.

Mr Barrett said Taranaki farmers saw the accord targets as "must-do" rather than just complying with minimum standards.

Taranaki-King Country MP and primary industries select committee chairman Shane Ardern said the snapshot showed dairy farmers were making good progress to protect the environment, even though the rules were constantly moving.

The accord between the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), Fonterra, Local Government New Zealand and Ministry for the Environment concluded at the end of 2012.

The Sustainable Dairying Water Accord, an agreement between DairyNZ and all dairy companies focusing on stock exclusion from waterways, riparian planting and nutrient and water use management, is now out for farmer feedback before its introduction in May.

Taranaki Daily News