11 Dec 2009

Barrage of submissions against indoor farming plan

5:57 pm on 11 December 2009

Debate about proposals for large-scale indoor dairy farming in the Upper Waitaki region has triggered a barrage of submissions opposing the development.

Three companies are proposing to establish 16 dairy farms in the Lake Ohau Omarama area with more than 17,000 cows that will be housed under cover for much of the year.

Southdown Holdings, Five Rivers and Williamson Holdings applied for water rights earlier this year and are now seeking effluent discharge consents.

Canterbury Regional Council has to date received about 1600 submissions on those applications opposing the indoor farming plans. They include submissions from France, Great Britain, and Australia.

Opponents of the under-cover dairy farming proposals have raised environmental and animal welfare objections and argue that they are out of step with free-range pasture based farming methods associated with New Zealand.

But advocates of the indoor systems say they are actually more environmentally friendly because they allow the farmers to more effectively control effluent and nutrient discharges.

They say the sophisticated indoor housing proposed will also be better for the cows from an animal welfare point of view, and these sorts of facilities are already being used in other parts of New Zealand.

The regional council is considering 120 applications for water consents in the Upper Waitaki-Mackenzie Basin.

They include another big dairying development proposed along the Haldon Arm of Lake Benmore, where 12,000 cows would be mainly pasture-based but housed indoors for three months of the year.