Milk on dump farms to be tested

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 19/12/2013
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Milk from Taranaki farms where drilling waste has been dumped will now be tested, a move that has been welcomed by environmentalists.

But the Green Party said the testing didn't go far enough and wanted all animal products that had been exposed to toxic waste and pollution from the oil and gas industry to be tested.

The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) announced yesterday it would test milk from dairy farms that were near landfarms.

This would come under its annual National Chemical Contaminants Programme, which tested for more than 500 compounds in milk samples taken from farms across New Zealand.

No further details were available, because the ministry was still working out exactly what monitoring would be added to its regime.

In July, MPI introduced additional requirements for dairy farmers applying waste to farm land. Dairy farmers now had to keep their dairy companies informed of the practice and withhold cows for a certain period of time.

Fonterra spokesman Andy Goodwin said its testing confirmed that there was no food safety issue from land farming.

"However, given the high costs of testing - around $80k per annum - we made the decision earlier this year that no milk supply will be accepted from any further dairy farms where landfarming is proposed."

Green Party energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes said the party welcomed the Government's decision to start testing milk coming off landfarms, but there needed to be testing of all animal products from Taranaki that may have come into contact with pollution from the oil and gas industry.

In addition to the landfarms, there were more than 30 sites in Taranaki where toxic petroleum industry waste had been buried on farms in a technique called "mix-bury-cover."

Milk from these farms or those which had wells drilled on them had not been tested, he said.

These farms should be included in MPI's new testing programme.

"In the last 20 years, over 400 wells have been drilled in Taranaki, many of which are on or immediately next to dairy or beef farms.

"The National Government is putting New Zealand's reputation for producing clean, green and safe food to the world at risk by promoting the expansion of the oil and gas industry on our farms."

Mixing the oil and gas industry and food producing industries was "an accident waiting to happen", Mr Hughes said.

Taranaki environmentalist Sarah Roberts said she was relieved the ministry was taking the issues of landfarming on or beside dairy supply farms seriously.

"Our dairy farms are not toxic dumps for dealing with oil and gas waste whether it is from landfarms or oil and gas well sites. We need to keep oil and gas off our farms."

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