Press Releases Westland dairy farmers committed to environmental standards
May 16, 2017
New Zealand’s second largest dairy co-operative, Westland Milk Products, says its shareholder suppliers are making significant progress on their commitment to protect the environment through improved farm practices.
A new progress report on “Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord Three Years On” (released on Monday 15 May) showed farmers are tackling environmental issues head on.
Westland’s General Manager Shareholder Services Tony Wright says: “The great news is that more than 99 per cent of the West Coast’s rivers meet the standards required for swimming, and that’s not just because we have such high rainfall on the West Coast, our farmers have played a part.
“For example,” Wright said, “the target for water quality standards in the Coast’s largest and most popular recreational lake, Lake Brunner (which had been declining), was met five years earlier than projections. Our shareholders in the Brunner catchment played a big role in ensuring farmers got on board with the programme to protect the lake from agricultural runoff. Many farmers spent hundreds of thousands of dollars each to upgrade their systems and put in new water and waste management practices.”
Wright said he was pleased to note that West Coast Regional Council (WCRC) figures show Coast dairy farmers are performing better than the national average in regards to complying with consent conditions.
“The WCRC figures show only 2.5 percent of farms visited were significantly non-compliant, compared with the national average of 5.25 per cent. The regional council has also noted a 20 per cent improvement since 2012/13 in relation to the number of fully compliant farms in the region.”
While Westland’s shareholders achieved a credible 73per cent rate of stock exclusion from waterways, Wright accepted that this was below the national average but noted that West Coast conditions contributed to the result.
“The facts are that our rainfall is measured in metres per year, not centimetres as in the rest of the country, and our topography is very steep. This means that what is a dry creek for most of the year can periodically be turned into a raging torrent. Permanent fencing of such waterways is difficult and expensive. We have asked the monitoring authorities to agree that temporary electric fencing be considered as meeting the standard in these areas. It is simply not feasible for many of our farmers to install permanent fencing that can be washed away every other month.”
Wright noted that the co-operative’s Canterbury shareholders had achieved 100 per cent compliance with stock exclusion from waterways.
“West Coast farmers are not using the challenges of their environment to excuse non-compliance,” Wright added. “Every day we are seeing improvements and, just as compliance has shot up in the last few years, we expect to see environmental performance improve further still in the coming seasons.”
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