Protestor wrath halts dairy land conversion

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags New zealand Greenhouse gas

Some New Zealand-based environmental groups are getting confrontational amidst claims that the country’s dairy industry remains ‘generally very unwilling’ to take action over its potential impacts on climate change.

Greenpeace protestors this week managed to chain themselves to logging equipment bringing a temporary halt to ongoing land conversion in the Central North Island over concerns about intensive dairy farming in the country.

Simon Boxer of the New Zealand branch of Greenpeace told that dairies in the country, including major global supplier Fonterra, were keen to be excluded from involvement in reducing carbon emissions and ensuring sustainability.

The environmental group is calling for New Zealand-based dairy manufacturers and farmer to adopt less intensive methods for milk production.

Climate calls

“We would like to see New Zealand farmers shift towards a less intensive form of dairying; one that involves less chemical fertiliser and lower stocking rates,” ​said Boxer. “We'd also like them to draw a clearer link between the environment and climate and their economic wellbeing.”

Over the last year, like much of the wider dairy industry, Fonterra, which dominates production in New Zealand, says it has been actively working on solutions to improve sustainability across its operations from farming to energy use.

However, groups like Greenpeace continue to accuse the country’s dairy industry of destroying forests and potentially exacerbating climate change.

Although a non-violent protest, Boxer said that the organization had been forced to take the action over claims that a quarter of the nation’s plantation is at risk from intensive dairy farming and conversions of forests to land for grazing.

“We took this non-violent direct action because of the huge climate impact from current rates of deforestation for intensive dairy in New Zealand,”​ he stated. “We're calling for a moratorium on further conversions of forest land to dairy.”

Lobby attacks

Greenpeace alleges that aside from spurring on forestation in New Zealand, the dairy industry has actively sought to lobby against being part of the country’s emissions trading scheme, while also attempting to secure concessions for agriculture in any climate change agreements.

The environmental group has also hit out at some farmers’ groups, which it claims actively deny any potential links to man-made climate change and their operations.

“Meanwhile greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture in New Zealand continue to climb,”​ stated Boxer.

To hammer home its message, Greenpeace says that it has even taken to advertising on the back of buses, normally more associated with greenhouse gas emissions, in New Zealand’s two largest cities, to promote it fears over climate change and agriculture.

The dairy industry has also moved to highlight its own green credentials.

Dairy commitments

Speaking last year, Barry Harris, chairman of Fonterra's Sustainability Council, said that the company was playing a leading role in working with the New Zealand government to ensure its operations and sourcing are environmentally sustainable.

"There are also opportunities for any breakthrough research in reducing methane ​emissions to have the potential to be sold overseas,"​ he stated at the time.

The comments followed findings by claims from the Sustainability Council of New Zealand suggesting technological developments like nitrification inhibitors could help the country both meet its emission reduction targets.

About 49 per cent of New Zealand's emissions stemmed from livestock farming in 2006, according to government estimates at the time.

Related topics Markets Sustainability

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