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NZ Farmers Make Progress with Clean Streams

16 March 2009

NEW ZEALAND - The latest results from the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord for the 2007/08 season showed a slight improvement in the overall level of significant non-compliance with Regional Council dairy effluent rules, along with a rise in the level of full compliance.

Solid progress by New Zealand’s dairy farmers towards the Clean Streams Accord’s other four targets was made during the period, with those targets being exceeded in most regions throughout the country, say Fonterra.

“Dairy farmers throughout the country have made ongoing, incremental improvements in their on-farm environmental management, and this latest snapshot of progress bears that out,” said Barry Harris, the Chairman of Fonterra’s Sustainability Leadership Team. “We’re seeing much higher levels of farmer awareness and action toward environmental best practice throughout the country.”

Results from the six-year-old Accord’s annual snapshot of progress were announced by Minister for Agriculture, David Carter, at the Beehive this morning. The Accord - a voluntary partnership between Fonterra, Ministry for the Environment, Ministry for Agriculture and Forestry and Regional Councils/Local Government New Zealand – aims to help improve rural water quality in dairy catchments.

Dairy cattle have been excluded from 78 per cent of the rivers, lakes and streams on farms that meet the Accord definition, and the 2012 target of 90 per cent exclusion has already been met in Otago and Southland. Some 97 per cent of regular race crossing points now have bridges or culverts.

Almost 99 per cent of Fonterra farmers have in place a nutrient budget, just short of the 100 per cent target, but higher than the one in five farms that had a budget one year into the Accord’s inception.

Progress against the wetland target was not included because of regional differences in identifying “regionally significant” wetlands. Fonterra is continuing to communicate to farmers that all stock should be excluded from all wetlands that are likely to be deemed significant.

Fonterra has been working with Regional Councils throughout New Zealand to achieve greater consistency in their approaches to compliance monitoring and their definitions of what constitutes “non-compliance”. The reporting period was the first time a standardised system between councils for the reporting of dairy effluent compliance was used, providing a better opportunity to compare regional results.

In the area of effluent management, full compliance with Regional Council regulations rose to 70 per cent during the season, compared with 68 per cent in the year-earlier period. The overall level of significant non-compliance was at 11 per cent from 2006/07’s 12 per cent. But those levels are still well short of the 100 per cent compliance target the Accord outlines for dairy farm effluent discharge.

“Most of our farmers, despite complex rules and changing expectations, have made excellent progress in establishing robust effluent management systems,” said Mr Harris. “But others are experiencing difficulties in complying with Regional Council regulations and that level of non-compliance remains much too high.

“We have to recognise that these farmers are very much in the minority, but they are spoiling it for the majority of our farmers and we have to make a renewed effort to help them lift their environmental performance.

Last week Fonterra announced the introduction of new measures to assist non-complying farmers. The new system is designed to drive further progress toward full compliance with effluent management regulations and has the explicit goal of cutting significant non-compliance by 50 per cent by August 2011.

Mr Harris added that while the Accord has been instrumental in changing farmer attitudes and improving on-farm environmental performance, it is only one component of a raft of initiatives Fonterra has implemented over the past few years to reduce dairying’s environmental footprint.

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