12 Mar 2009

No new Government action on dirty dairy streams

8:23 pm on 12 March 2009

The Government is to take no new action to improve the quality of dairy farm streams despite little progress lately towards cleaner waterways.

The latest assessment of the Dairying & Clean Streams Accord was issued on Thursday. The accord was signed by the previous Government, Fonterra and regional councils six years ago.

Almost a quarter of streams on dairy farms supplying Fonterra remain unfenced.

The Ministry of Agriculture says more than one in 10 of these farms significantly breached cowshed effluent disposal rules last year - and another 20% broke effluent rules in less serious ways.

Agriculture Minister David Carter says these farmers are testing the patience of New Zealanders and risk damaging the dairy industry's reputation.

But he says the Government will leave enforcement of the accord to Fonterra and regional councils for now.

Fish and Game

Fish and Game's chief executive Bryce Johnson says the results make a mockery of the voluntary approach.

He says the new government needs to get tougher and require agriculture to take responsibility for its adverse affects.

Mr Johnson says other dairy companies and environmental groups should be involved in the clean-up strategy.

Forest and Bird

Forest and Bird says dairy farms are getting away with pollution because of inconsistent policing of cowshed effluent rules by regional councils.

Under the 2003 Clean Streams Accord with Government and regional councils, Fonterra promised total and immediate compliance with all dairy effluent disposal obligations.

But more than one-in-ten of Fonterra's farmer suppliers significantly breached cowshed effluent rules last year - and another fifth broke the rules less seriously.

Forest and Bird's advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell says regional councils can't be left to police dirty dairying.

He says polluting farmers in some parts of the country know that their regional council will not issue them with an infringement notice and take them to court.

Mr Hackwell says that's why farmers are getting away with polluting.