Is New Zealand’s clean green image under threat from dirty dairying or is the agriculture industry getting a bad rap for New Zealand’s lack of monitoring and policy making? | Contents Executive Summary 3 Introduction 4 Background 5 1Discussion6 1.
1Soil7 1. 1. 1Environmental Impacts8 1. 2Water Quality8 1. 2. 1Environmental Impacts8 1. 3Water Scarcity9 1. 3.
1Environmental Effects9 2Clean Green Solutions9 2. 1Clean Stream Accord10 2. 2Resource Management Act 199111 2. 3Regional Councils11 2. 4Sustainable Water Programme of Action11 Summary 11 ReferencesFigure 1 Land Use in New Zealand 2004. Data Source: Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry6 Figure 2 Median Nitrate levels in river water: Nutrient trends in rivers in the national monitoring network, 1989–20058 Executive Summary In just over 100 years New Zealand has gone from a country covered in natural bush to a farming nation covered in exotic grasses.
Although our population is increasing a large majority of these people have been populating the cities. Few seem concerned that the previously diverse range of environments has been reduced to simplified and highly regulated farm land.There has been a drive towards agricultural intensification to produce more milk, wool, meat and crops from the same area of land. Farmers have increased production on these lands through new technologies and using more water and fertilisers. In 2004 Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment issued a report “Growing for Good”, it found that intensified farming was causing many environmental problems; including declining water quality in many areas, large amounts of eroding land and a growth in demand for irrigation water appeared to be unsustainable in some regions.This report outlines the above environmental effects and some solutions that have been introduced to lessen the effects of intensified agricultural practices in New Zealand. Introduction Is New Zealand’s clean green image under threat from dirty dairying? According to the following two quotes New Zealand’s environment is some of the worst in the world in regards to pollution and biodiversity.
“Polluters such as the agricultural industry were following voluntary measures such as the Clean Streams Accord. ”If we’re serious about cleaning up waterways, we have to adopt real standards and impose them.The voluntary model is completely flawed”, as stated by Green Party co-leader Russell Norman Mike Joy wrote an article in the New Zealand Herald (25/04/2011) entitled “the dying myth of a clean, green Aotearoa”. In this article he mentions that we were among the worst in the world for biodiversity. We have drained 90% of our wetlands and removed 70% of our native forests and engineered most of our rivers to suit our needs. He also mentions that half our lakes and 90% of our lowland rivers are classed as polluted.Have these two gentleman got it right about the New Zealand agriculture sector or are they just trying to further their careers, with political manoeuvring? Background Agriculture in New Zealand is the largest sector of the tradable economy, contributing about two-thirds of exported goods in 2006-7; it is also one of the largest sectors causing environmental impacts. Dairy farming in New Zealand began from small beginnings during the early days of colonization by Europeans.
The income from dairy farming is now a major part of the New Zealand economy, becoming an NZ$11 billion industry by 2010.Due to New Zealand’s location at 33° and 47° our climate has been ideal for agriculture. Almost all of the animals, trees and grasses are exotic to New Zealand.
We are perhaps one of the most modified countries in the world, 65% of the land has been cultivated from its original state Early Maori settlers had adopted slash and burn practices to clear native lands to grow their crops of Kumara, taro and yams. So over about 2 centuries of slashing and burning about 1/3 of the land in New Zealand had been cleared of native forests and replaced with tussock grasses and crops.European settlers had no use for these tussocks grasses as they were not particularly useful for agricultural use. The European settlers began their own clearing of the land by burning the tussock grasses and replacing them with exotic grasses to make way for pasture lands. However, it is these introduced grasses that require higher levels of nitrogen, phosphate fertilisers and lime to maintain them. And it is these artificial fertilisers that are damaging our clean green image. 35% of New Zealand is now covered in these exotic grasses.
The situation today is 52% of the country is covered by farmland, 85% of this is covered with sheep or beef, as the land is of poor quality pasture, 11% is highly fertilised grasses with dairy cattle and the remaining 4 % is horticultural land. (Figure 1) Figure [ 1 ] Land Use in New Zealand 2004. Data Source: Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Discussion Farming is considered the backbone of New Zealand as it is the highest export earner making up 18. 1% of total exports. Recent trends in land use show that while the numbers of dairy farms are decreasing the stock numbers are increasing.
This intensification of pastoral land has led to the increase of fertilisers and nitrogen that are ending up in the waterways and ground water. Some potential negative effects of farming include: • Declining soil fertility and integrity – e. g. through erosion of soil or the loss of organic matter • Pollution of waterways and groundwater – e. g. impacts on water quality from nutrient losses The dairy industry pushed the Clean Streams Accord, suggesting that would solve the problems of farming impacts on fresh water. Federated Farmers insisted that New Zealanders must accept degradation if we want a healthy economy.But if we destroy our environment we won’t be able to feed ourselves.
There was a high profile case in 2001, in which the environment court had prosecuted the Crafer farm for dirty dairy practises. A fine of $13,000 was handed down for unlawful discharge of effluent on to land where it could enter the waterways. This fine was obviously not high enough to deter these farm owners as they continued the dirty dairying practises for abut another 9 years; they have received several more fines over these years but it still didn’t stop them.This is an example of actions that have been taken by councils that were not harsh enough to deter this farmer from continuing with his practises. Stronger penalties need to be enforced, but also stricter guidelines of what’s acceptable and what’s not allowed would send a clear message to farmers. Soil Soil erosion is an ongoing problem in New Zealand, approximately 200-300 million tones of soil are carried out to sea every year. New Zealand’s land topography increases the erosion problem e. g.
steep slopes; however it is the increase in intensive farming on the hill country that continues to be the leading cause of erosion.Removal of topsoil happens faster than the soil forming processes can replace it, due to natural, animal, and human activity (over grazing, over cultivation, forest clearing, mechanized farming, etc. ). To a certain extent soil erosion is natural process.
But if soil erosion is a natural process why do so many environmentalists refer to it as one of the biggest environmental problems? This is because the soil erosion process has been increased dramatically by human land use such as industrial agriculture. Environmental Impacts Hill country erosion decreases the productivity of farms.Although vegetation returns within a few years on an eroded site, growth is generally less productive than before because the underlying soil is thinner and holds fewer nutrients.
Downstream, debris causes rivers to build up, increasing flood risk. Erosion can also contribute too many water quality problems such as loss of aquatic habitat and increased sediment loads. Water Quality Land activities have numerous effects on water quality. One of the major affects on water is the increased nutrients to the water ways from land runoff.Water can contain many unrelated types of contaminants and concentration levels may vary from waterway to waterway. Poor management practises can obviously degrade water quality, but pollution cannot be entirely avoided even with the best management however, it can be lessened. Environmental Impacts Is water pollution an inevitable consequence of farming? Figure [ 2 ] Median Nitrate levels in river water: Nutrient trends in rivers in the national monitoring network, 1989–2005 Intensive dairy farming practices have led to water pollution from cattle effluent in many of the streams and rivers in New Zealand.
The Waikato River has had a long history of water pollution and now fails health regulations for human contact. It passes through the highly productive Waikato Region, where dairy farming is a common land use. More recently, the Manawatu River has been highlighted in the media due to its high pollution levels. A vast majority of lowland rivers and streams passing through pastoral land are now polluted from excess runoff from fertilisers and excrement. Water Scarcity In parts of New Zealand like Central Otago and the East Coast of both Islands the lack of water is the problem.
Farms have converted from sheep and beef to dairying which requires a lot more water use. We have an abundance of fresh water; there is a lot of it, and we don’t seem to worry about using it (our water use grew by around 50 per cent between 1999 and 2006). New Zealand’s agriculture industry uses 70 percent of our available freshwater for irrigation, rendering it unusable for drinking as a result of contamination with fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and silt. (Figure 1. 2) Environmental Effects There are two main environmental concerns around irrigation: * the vailability of water and the implications of extracting it from rivers * the nitrate discharge associated with increased stock numbers or crop production on irrigated land Waters may be polluted by agricultural chemicals and fertilizers, the quality of the river water below the project area can deteriorate, which makes it less fit for industrial, municipal and household use. It may lead to reduced public health. Polluted river water entering the sea may adversely affect the ecology along the sea shore causing surface water and groundwater-aquifer water pollution. Clean Green SolutionsThe Agricultural sector in New Zealand is held in very high regards, it is the top export earner for the country and without it New Zealand would be a very different place.
Because of this the agricultural sector has had very few regulations placed on them from a national level. Early regulations from Central government like the Soil and Water Conservation Act 1941, tended to focus on managing the environmental problems through engineering. The prevention of erosion and soil conservation were encouraged, but environmental problems were seen as a loss of farm productivity.Clean Stream Accord At the beginning of this decade growing criticism from lobby groups and environmentalists about the environmental impact of intensive dairy farming practices and the failure of regional and central government to effectively address the problem, brought about by the ‘dirty dairying campaign’. The response to this campaign was for Fonterra to approach regional and central government in 2002 to reach a voluntary ‘accord’ over the means of improving water quality.This became formalised as the ‘Dairying and Clean Streams Accord’ signed in May 2003 between Fonterra, Ministers for the Environment and of Agriculture & Forestry and Local Government New Zealand on behalf of the collective of Regional Councils. The purpose of the accord is to provide “a statement of intent and framework for actions to promote sustainable dairy farming in New Zealand.
It focuses on reducing the impacts of dairying on the quality of New Zealand streams, rivers, lakes, ground water and wetlands. ” The goal is to ensure that water is suitable for fish, drinking by stock and swimming (in designated areas).The performance targets are: * Dairy cattle excluded from 50% of streams, rivers and lakes by 2007, 90% by 2012 * 50% of regular crossing points have bridges or culverts by 2007, 90% by 2012 * 100% of farm dairy effluent discharges to comply with resource consents and regional plans immediately * 100% of dairy farms to have in place systems to manage nutrient inputs and outputs by 2007 50% of regionally significant wetlands to be fenced by 2005, 90% by 2007 Resource Management Act 1991 The Resource Management Act 1991 does not specifically target farming practices, but it affects farmers through the resource consent process.Farmers usually need approval for irrigation and stream withdrawals and effluent discharge on land.
They may also be subject to land use consents for farm tracks and buildings. Section 4 of Managing Waterways in the Resource Management Act 1991 mentions the use of riparian strips around water ways on farms. Williamson and Hoare estimated that under certain conditions improved riparian management could achieve substantial reductions (>50%) in the total phosphorus inputs into streams from New Zealand agricultural catchments.
With this in mind, if all farmers planted the minimum riparian strip around all their waterways on their farms New Zealand’s water ways would improve dramatically. Regional Councils In general, local governments have been very reluctant to regulate farming activities. The responsibility to monitor the environment has led many councils and the public to a greater awareness of the effects of intensive farming. The need for tighter restrictions on farming activities needs to be brought to the fore front of local councils and the policy makers.More education for farmers about the damage they are doing to the environment is necessary, and also penalties for repeat offenders who continue to pollute the environment. Sustainable Water Programme of Action In 2006 the government announced an accelerated Sustainable Water Programme of Action (SWPoA). It called for progress to be made by 2007 on: * a national policy statement on water allocation * national environmental standards on water measurement, and acceptable ecological river flows and levels * identifying and protecting iconic water bodies protecting water quality from the effects of urban and agricultural land use * identifying the role of water-user groups in water resources management * Tools to assist regional councils to achieve the objectives of the Sustainable Water Programme of Action.
Summary If pollution is an inevitable part of agriculture, then a District plan would be entitled to classify land use as a non-complying or even a prohibited activity under the Resource Management Act 1991. If on the other hand pollution commonly eventuates from agriculture but can be avoided, remedied or mitigated, then discretionary or controlled status may be appropriate.If negative consequences are unlikely the land use may justify a permitted status although possibly still be subject to the use of performance standards and criteria for best management practice. So with this in mind, should all District Plans make farming, whether it agricultural or horticultural etc a non complying activity so consent restrictions can be monitored by local Councils? Or would this sort of legislation be taking it a step to far and put pressure on the local councils. References