22 Nov 2017

Dairy strategy prioritises environment, animal welfare

4:18 pm on 22 November 2017

The dairy sector has unveiled a new strategy which looks at the future of farming in New Zealand and ways to improve it over the next decade.

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Photo: RNZ / Russell Palmer

DairyNZ, Federated Farmers, the Dairy Council of New Zealand and the Dairy Women's Network would all be involved in the strategy, called Dairy Tomorrow.

It will be based on six commitments including leading efforts to better protect the environment and improving the quality of the country's waterways.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle said the industry wanted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop a 50-year blueprint around sustainable land use.

"Farmers are very aware that the spotlight has now been shining on the environment sustainability of dairying and that's an issue that they're taking seriously and we want keep working hard at that," he said.

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DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

"That's why one of the key commitments, our first commitment in fact, is to protect and nuture the environment for future generations, so there are some lofty goals in there around water quality and around climate change."

Details on tackling it were yet to be decided but would become clearer after speaking to land users, government and councils, he said.

The crowd at the dairy industry's strategy launch function.

The crowd at the dairy industry's strategy launch function. Photo: Supplied / James Griffin / Edgeline Photography

Some farmers had previously called for more consistency and collaboration from the sector and government agencies around the way environmental issues were managed.

Mr Mackle agreed consistency was a problem.

"There needs to be more consistency around really understanding the base level commitments that we should all be aspiring to," he said.

"At the same time, every catchment and area is different too ... so, yes, consistency is important but at the same time you have to focus on specific issues to make progress too."

Fish and Game chief executive Martin Taylor said the plan was a decade overdue.

"This is all too little, too late. The dairy industry has had a decade to come up with a blueprint for sustainable farming and land use and now the strategy is to wait another eight years to develop one," Mr Taylor said.

"The reality is the present dairying model is unsustainable. Kiwis need action now and aren't prepared to wait until 2025."

Greenpeace was equally critical and said it wasn't convinced the plan would address herd sizes, which it said was crucial to achieving such environmental goals.

The strategy also involves an ambitious goal to become world leading in animal welfare.

Mr Mackle said the industry wanted to create a framework or system to ensure this country upholds the highest standard of animal welfare by 2023.

"One of the key areas for farmers was how we care for on-farm animal care, so it is about creating a future-focused framework that ensures that every animal is valued and treated with care and respect," he said.

"There is quite a lot of work that still needs to be done but I think for now it's quite a lofy goal and it's important not only to farmers themselves and the community but also to our customers and consumers overseas, it's a big issue for them too so we're got to take it very seriously."

When asked how that framework would be enforced, he said it was early days but it could either be through the industry regulating itself, or through a official regulator.

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