Climate concerns form over New Zealand dairy boom
prices, politicians have hit out at the environmental impacts of
the resulting rise in production.
Jeanette Fitzsimons, co-leader of the national Green Party said that the industry was being "subsidised" to meet increased demand from processors at the expense of both the environment and the country's tax payers, and should be charged for its impacts. The criticisms come as dairy processors are put under pressure to ensure that both their supply and production methods are sustainable, with the possibility of increased penalties if they are found to be affecting climate change. Fitzsimons pointed to the free use of publicly owned and scarce water as a key example of the benefits the industry is currently receiving, during a speech made Sunday at a public meeting. "Water is a part of our collective wealth," she said. "It is not privately owned, and farmers and other commercial users are using it for their own ends." However, it is not just the issue of water use where the country's dairy industry has been profiting that concerns Fitzsimons. She also said that increased land use is an area for worry. "Dairy farmers are also incurring no charge for any losses of biodiversity, landscape and shelter, and the use of the atmosphere as a dumping ground for methane and nitrous oxide, while others pick up the costs of a changing climate," she added. Fitzsimons believes that the industry should face greater responsibility over the environmental impacts of its operations through the use of financial penalties to encourage more environmentally sound practices. "We need charges on pollution, most urgently on greenhouse gases" she added. However, the claims that the country's dairy groups are acting irresponsibly over climate change have been rebuffed by the industry, which claims that it remains well ahead of its rivals in emissions. Frank Brenmuhl of Federated Farmers of New Zealand pointed to recent findings by Lincoln University that found that greenhouse gas emissions were 34 per cent lower in New Zealand than the UK. Commenting last week on the findings, he said that New Zealand's increased levels of dairy production were therefore benefiting the issue of climate change. "The world is better off with New Zealand agriculture continuing to produce," he stated. "That is because meat and dairy products produced in New Zealand use less energy than food produced almost anywhere else." The comments come as the value of diary commodity prices rose by 7.8 per cent in July over the previous month, according to ANZ Bank's World Commodity Price Index report.