Call-In Of Mackenzie Applications A Vital Test

NEW ZEALAND - The proposal of 16 "loose house" dairy farms in the Mackenzie Basin has caused quite a stir. Now the application has been called-in to the Board of Inquiry.
calendar icon 28 January 2010
clock icon 2 minute read

Federated Farmers is welcoming the Call-In decision on the Mackenzie Basin applications. “This Call-In to a Board of Inquiry is a litmus test for economic development,” says Lachlan McKenzie, Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson.

What’s proposed are 16 ‘loose house’ dairy farms and a Google search on ‘loose housing’ is an eye-opener. A factory farm is more like Fonterra’s feedlot in China or the tie stalls that typify much of the Europe’s dairy industry.

“Ironically, progressive dairy farmers in Europe are moving to ‘loose housing’ similar to that being proposed in the Mackenzie Basin.

“So is the Mackenzie Basin a virgin dairy farming area as some claim? Actually, no, given there are around 7000 cows in the Benmore Valley. Do the 16 dairy farms proposed fall on pristine natural landscape? Again, no. The 16 dairy farms being planned all fall on current working farms in a heavily modified working landscape.

“If it’s an iconic landscape, it’s really only iconic to the livestock that are currently there.

“The Board of Inquiry must operate under the effects based Resource Management Act. It’s about guiding the location of activities while controlling that, which may have unacceptable environmental impacts.

“If the Board operates on the facts and the evidence then we will be happy, yet there has been a worrisome level of political conjecture at the most senior level. Really, our political leaders ought to know better and ought to be treating this process as quasi-judicial.

“Federated Farmers is also concerned about the confusing policy signals we are being sent.

“The applications are based on harvesting effluent over winter to prevent nutrients entering groundwater or waterways. This is a major policy push from a number of regional councils. Stored effluent can be spray irrigated back over summer when there’s low rainfall, returning liquid and vital nutrients back to pasture, when the pasture most needs it.

“The Government further tells us of the need to reduce agricultural emissions and yet this application makes the harvesting of biogas feasible. This biogas could offset greenhouse gas emissions from these farms introducing carbon neutrality.

“Yet what will the decision mean for a number of ‘loose house’ dairy farms operating in Southland, Otago and Canterbury? These are farms that have been rightly praised for animal welfare and good environmental management. So does the Government really want to stop agriculture at a fixed point in time?,” Mr McKenzie asked.

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