20 Feb 2013

New water quality accord agreed

10:32 pm on 20 February 2013

A new water quality agreement has been agreed for the dairy industry to lift environmental performance on dairy farms.

The Sustainable Dairying Water Accord will replace the Clean Streams Accord - a voluntary agreement between dairy cooperative Fonterra, councils and central government that has been operating since 2003 and expired last year.

The new agreement will be in place on 1 August after the start of the next dairy season and has been expanded to include all dairy companies and dairy farmers.

Dairy New Zealand chairman John Luxton said on Wednesday the new agreement sets new timeframes for meeting targets.

These include excluding 90% of dairy cattle from waterways by May next year and 100% by 2017, and shutting all dairy cattle from wetlands by 2014.

Mr Luxton said dairy companies are already incorporating standards and commitments from the new accord into their supply contracts with farmers.

Federated Farmers dairy chairman Willy Leferink said it is a more ambitious agreement with a greater understanding for the difficulties that farmers face and a more realistic approach.

Dairy companies are to discuss the details with farmers. Fonterra is planning 50 meetings with suppliers in March.

The new accord has drawn criticism from opposition groups, who say it is weak and has no way of making sure all farmers follow it.

Green Party environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage said there are no checks on farmers or sanctions against those who breach the accord.

Conservation group Forest and Bird cautiously accepts the new accord because it has expanded to include all dairy farmers.

However, like the Greens, it said the accord lacks teeth and will run into problems if it does not punish those ignoring it.