Farmers have made significant progress on a commitment to protecting dairy waterways, according to the progress report on the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord ‘Three Years On’.
The report says 97% of dairy cattle are fenced off from waterways on farms, meaning 26,197km of measured Accord waterways are excluded from dairy cattle.
More than 99% of 44,386 regular stock crossing points on dairy farms now have bridges or culverts to protect local water quality, the report says, adding national levels of significant non-compliance for dairy effluent systems on farms have dropped to their lowest point, 5.2%, down from 7% in 2013-14.
‘Real progress’ made
DairyNZ CEO Dr Tim Mackle, said he acknowledged there is still work to do, but dairy farmers are making a positive difference.
“The really special thing is that they have made this commitment voluntarily, and I take my hat off to them,” Mackle said.
Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand executive director Kimberly Crewther said the annual process of independent auditing of results gives a high degree of assurance that real progress is occurring against targets.
The report covers the period from the launch in 2013 to the end of May 2016.
Sustainable Dairy: Water Accord
The accord, launched in 2013, is a set of national management practice benchmarks aimed at lifting environmental performance on dairy farms and recording pledges by the dairy sector, with the support of others, to assist and encourage dairy farmers to adopt those management practices and to monitor and report progress.
It was developed under the oversight of the Dairy Environment Leadership Group, which includes farmers and representatives from dairy companies, central government, regional councils, and the Federation of Maori Authorities.
Green Party comment
The Green Party said it welcomed the positive news from the report, saying it was a good first step.
Green Party primary industries spokesperson Eugenie Sage said fencing, stock crossings and having nutrient management plans are only the first steps in what is needed to clean up and protect rivers, lakes and aquifers.
“We need to look at the source of pollution – particularly cow urine – and reduce the number of cows on our land and reduce nutrient pollution,” Sage said.
“We can’t protect water quality when we have 6.6m cows, intensive fertilizer use and huge demand for irrigation.”
She said the Green Party, if elected, would require all stock to be fenced out of waterways, not just dairy cattle, wind up Government subsidises for large-scale irrigation schemes and put a moratorium on new dairy farms.