Dairy growth costing the environment more than ever

Latest reports from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment show dairy intensification is causing more pollution to our waterways, and the water quality of many waterways is continuing to decline, the Green Party said today.

“While we welcome the good work the Parliamentary Commissioner Dr Jan Wright has done on this report, the findings are grim reading,” said Green Party water spokesperson Catherine Delahunty.

“We would like to see the Commissioner call for a moratorium on further dairy conversions in light of the findings that dairy is causing further deterioration to waterways.

“The National Government’s continued reliance on dairy as an export commodity is coming at the expense of our rivers, lakes and other waterways. It makes no sense to be converting forested land in the upper Waikato to intensive dairy farms such as state-owned enterprise Landcorp are doing. By putting another 29,500 cows on the land, Landcorp are not only harming the river, they are undoing the good work farmers downstream have done mitigating pollution.”

Water quality in New Zealand: Land use and nutrient pollution update report shows that between 2008 and 2012 the Waikato alone lost 18,700 hectares of plantation forests, while another 28,400ha of land became dairy farms.

“Forests are not only a carbon sink, they are good for water quality as sediment and nutrients don’t tend to run off into streams,” said Ms Delahunty.

“Dairy farms on the other hand are harmful to water quality because of the volume of waste cows produce that leaches into the groundwater and runs off into waterways, so these land use changes are a disaster for our water.”

In total, New Zealand lost 9,600ha of plantation forests, but increased dairy by 157,900ha.

“The report also shows that good work such as fencing and planting will not solve the fundamental problem of too many cows. The cows that Landcorp will introduce to the upper Waikato will cause 1.6 million litres of waste every day. It’s another disaster for the environment, and we’re calling for a moratorium on these conversions to stop further pollution,” Ms Delahunty said.

Dr Wright’s earlier projections underestimated the pace of dairy intensification, and thus the nutrients that will be lost to waterways.

Ms Delahunty also welcomed a second PCE report released today called Managing water quality: Examining the 2014 National Policy Statement, which makes recommendations regarding the Government’s goal of ‘overall quality of fresh water’ and finds the NPS lacking in several key areas.

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