DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says Greenpeace is blatantly misleading in its attacks on dairying, saying the vast majority of its 12,000 farmers want to leave their rivers and land in a better state than they found them in. “While we’re extremely proud of the game-changing past 10 years on dairy farms, we do know there is more to do – no one is denying that,” Mackle says. “Dairy farmers are on a journey to turn around what has been 150 years in the making, as a result of activity that includes deforestation and urbanisation, as well as farming.”
DairyNZ will continue to represent farmers, Mackle says, and talk about the significant investment being made to improve the condition of rivers, as well as the hard-working science that has helped improve water quality on dairy farms over the past five years. “All of this has been conveniently ignored by Greenpeace, and subsequently by a number of commentators,” he says. “In using dairy as a whipping boy, Greenpeace and like-minded critics showed their lack of knowledge of the current, and publicly available, facts about the various sources of water pollutants and the mitigations dairy farmers have put in place.
They also undermine the work regional and rural councils have done recently to ensure ongoing dialogue, improvements and enforcement. Greenpeace understands the efforts being made to address these issues. We invited them to meet with us in early December when we shared information about the good work that farmers and scientists are doing to improve the environment. However, acknowledgement of this doesn’t support their narrative when they are out fundraising.” Mackle says NIWA recently commented on the improvement of water quality in many of the monitored rivers, attributing some of the improvement to dairy’s focus on fencing waterways to exclude stock, and commenting that a good start had been made.
A crucial dairy sector initiative is the Sustainable Dairying Water Accord, a public agreement that is independently audited, and covers dairy farmers, dairy companies, central government, regional councils and the Federation of Maori Authorities, Mackle says.
Year-three results of work being carried out under the Accord are due for release at the end of March, and dairy farms are fully committed to it and improving their footprint. “They have spent more than $1 billion so far on on-farm effluent management systems, fencing waterways and building bridges,” he says. “They have also planted millions of trees in significant riparian planting and wetland revegetation projects.” DairyNZ works actively with environmental groups to raise issues and monitor improvements, and Mackle says the scare-mongering and finger-pointing at dairy needs to stop, and that working together as a country will achieve the best outcomes for everyone and the environment. He has challenged Greenpeace to actively work together with dairy, and other rural sectors and urban communities, to take practical steps to improve the state of New Zealand rivers.