DairyNZ rub­bishes ir­ri­ga­tion claim

The Southland Times - - BUSINESS - RU­RAL RE­PORTERS

Dairy and ir­ri­ga­tion lead­ers have hit back at claims by Green­peace that they are plan­ning on push­ing cow num­bers to record lev­els.

DairyNZ chief ex­ec­u­tive Tim Mackle said the ac­cu­sa­tion by Green­peace cam­paigner Genevieve Toop that DairyNZ was mak­ing a ‘‘cyn­i­cal at­tempt’’ to dis­tract New Zealan­ders from this growth via large-scale ir­ri­ga­tion schemes was rub­bish.

‘‘The claims are so ridicu­lous that we don’t want to com­ment.’’

Toop said the in­crease in cow num­bers would come from ir­ri­ga­tion schemes planned in Can­ter­bury, Otago, Wairarapa, North­land and Hawkes Bay.

‘‘What in­dus­trial dairy lob­by­ists don’t want the pub­lic to fo­cus on is that they are plan­ning a big in­crease in the num­ber of dairy cows, al­ready at 6.5 mil­lion, which will cause more pollution in our lakes and rivers,’’ she said.

‘‘If these ir­ri­ga­tion schemes go ahead there will be tens of thou­sands more dairy cows which will spell dis­as­ter for our lakes and rivers.’’

DairyNZ spokes­woman Mag­gie Ker­ri­gan said Green­peace was putting for­ward opin­ion as fact and chal­lenged the or­gan­i­sa­tion to come for­ward with ev­i­dence that DairyNZ was ac­tively push­ing for greater cow num­bers.

‘‘Can they show us where they got that in­for­ma­tion? It bears lit­tle or no fact.’’

Green­peace had used out­dated dairy cow sta­tis­tics, Ker­ri­gan said. The New Zealand Dairy Sta­tis­tics 2015-16 re­port, which is pub­lished ev­ery De­cem­ber by DairyNZ and LIC, showed dairy cow num­bers to­talled 4,997,811.

Even if the pro­posed ir­ri­ga­tion schemes went ahead, it would not au­to­mat­i­cally mean an in­crease in dairy cows, Ir­ri­ga­tion New Zealand chief ex­ec­u­tive Andrew Curtis said.

‘‘There are no ir­ri­ga­tion schemes go­ing in that are just for dairy. We are not go­ing to shy away from the fact that there is dairy go­ing in on them, but for the ma­jor­ity of the new schemes go­ing in, dairy is only mak­ing up 20 [per cent] to 30 per cent max­i­mum.’’

There was also a resur­gence among sheep and beef and crop­ping farm­ers in Can­ter­bury who were look­ing at ir­ri­ga­tion.

Green­peace had ig­nored the changes ir­ri­gat­ing dairy farm­ers had made re­gard­ing pre­ci­sion ir­ri­ga­tion, Curtis said.

‘‘It’s huge what farm­ers are hav­ing to do and they have to be ac­count­able for what they are do­ing. It’s dis­ap­point­ing [Green­peace] are not recog­nis­ing some of these things that are now hap­pen­ing.’’

Any new ir­ri­ga­tion scheme would be sub­ject to tight reg­u­la­tory con­trols from its re­gional coun­cil, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for land users to in­ten­sify or con­vert out­right to dairy­ing, he said.

‘‘In Can­ter­bury and in other ar­eas they have all got nu­tri­ent lim­its and schemes have to man­age within those nu­tri­ent lim­its.’’

Many farm­ers had re­duced their in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion fol­low­ing the fall in the milk price as they tried to re­duce their costs. They were keep­ing with this less in­ten­sive sys­tem be­cause it was more re­silient, Curtis said.

The lat­est ac­cu­sa­tion comes af­ter the Ad­ver­tis­ing Stan­dards Author­ity (ASA) re­jected a com­plaint by DairyNZ that an ad­ver­tise­ment pro­duced by Green­peace was mis­lead­ing. DairyNZ is now plan­ning to ap­peal the de­ci­sion.

DairyNZ’s state­ment on the ASA rul­ing, point­ing out its mit­i­ga­tion pro­grammes of fenc­ing rivers and plant­ing trees, missed the point, Toop said.

‘‘Too many cows on over­stocked farms cre­ates ni­trate pollution from cow urine which seeps through the soil into ground­wa­ter and then into wa­ter­ways … If we are go­ing to save our rivers and lakes we need to ditch plans for ir­ri­ga­tion schemes, de­crease cow num­bers and tran­si­tion to eco­log­i­cal farm­ing, with­out de­lay.’’

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