NEW ZEALAND - New Zealand’s rapidly expanding dairy industry had its environmental and social impacts highlighted last week in the form of water quality and worker migration.
Government and industry body announcements have revealed how the country’s dairy sector is beating its labour supply problems and intends to do the same with its impact on water courses.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment report Water Quality in New Zealand: Land use and nutrient pollution warned the country faces a ‘dilemma’ which pits national export earnings against the environmental costs incurred when producing lucrative milk powder.
Continuing to increase dairy production will result in further water degradation, said report contributor Dr Jan Wright.
This represents a challenge to farmers, many of whom were praised by Fonterra when it revealed the success of its water course fencing initiative.
On over 10,000 Fonterra supplying farms, 20,400 kilometres of newly erected fencing is showing the commitment of farmers to sustainability, said the processing giant.
“This is half way round the world,” said Federated Farmers environment spokesperson Ian Mackenzie, adding that the second wire completes the journey.
Milk’s global theme was emphasised by Dairy New Zealand Chair John Luxton when he reached out to the considerable Filipino workforce still reeling from the events of Friday 8 November when Typhoon Haiyan struck.
He eluded to the social implications of dairy’s premier exports industry, and another of its production challenges – labour.
In doing so, he revealed that Filipino workers now account for eight per cent of the dairy farm workforce, a figure that has constantly grown this century.
Along with South American – mainly Brazilian and Chilean – and Fijian workers, Filipinos have helped plug the labour gap as farms have expanded and family businesses have morphed into factory style farms depending on seasonal workers.
Philippine migration is therefore essential to support continuous growth within an industry that is the country’s biggest export earner, a figure clarified in this week’s water report.
Peak season employment figures demonstrate the dairy boom. In 1999 peak employment was 12,500, which had risen to 20,000 inside a decade.
Last year, 1500 Filipino herdworkers were employed in New Zealand dairy farming; nearly double that of the 2008/2009 season.
They travel to all corners of the country but proliferate mainly on the South Island in Caterbury and Southland, where labour demand drastically outstrips supply.
Such influx resulted in FFNZ unveiling an electronic workers document this week. Dairy Chairperson Wily Leferink called it a ‘one stop shop’ for migrant workers whether coming or going.
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