Clean rivers: Farmers reject call to cut cow numbersby Reesh Lyon
Help us find and write the stories Kiwis need to read
Environmental groups support reducing cow numbers. Farmers say it's not that simple.
Seven rural leaders, including the heads of Fonterra, Dairy NZ and Federated Farmers, yesterday pledged to improve river quality.
The informal Farming Leaders Group said while there had been progress in cleaning up waterways in the past decade, more needed to be done and more rapidly.
One of its members, New Zealand special agriculture trade envoy Mike Petersen, said the goal was to make rivers swimmable for future generations.
"Just as we've been able to, in our childhoods, swim in rivers freely, we want our children and grandchildren to be able to do that same," Mr Petersen said.
Environmental and recreational groups cautiously welcomed the commitment, but Choose Clean Water spokesperson Marnie Prickett said more detail was needed urgently about how this would be achieved.
"This is a sign that the farming leaders are on the side of the public, who have been calling for a swimmable bottom line for a long time.
Ms Prickett said farming leaders should have a "comprehensive plan" and commit to "real, meaningful and urgent steps".
These would include strict and enforceable bottom lines of contaminants like nitrates and E coli, and a withdrawal of government support for large scale irrigation.
Greenpeace said the farming group should back the Freshwater Rescue Plan, which had already been signed up to by 16 organisations and experts.
It also wanted a cut in the dairy herd.
Fish & Game agreed, with chief executive Bryce Johnson saying if farmers were serious about cleaning up rivers, they should cut cow numbers.
"We've simply gone too far and even the Ministry of Primary Industries has been saying the same thing. We've just pushed the envelope a bit too far and we've gotta pull it back."
But Mr Petersen said achieving pristine waterways was more complex than just reducing the number of cows.
"I think that's too simplistic, and we've been very clear in saying that every community and every catchment needs to work out how they plan to work their way down the path to better water quality."
"Each community will have a different approach to how they address that."
Mr Petersen pointed out the dairy industry had spent a billion dollars in the past few years on keeping stock out of waterways.
This article was originally published by RNZ.
The computer scientist who has become a leading voice on the threat posed by killer robots describes himself as an “accidental activist”.Read more
For 35 years, Steve Thomas has been at the helm of Arts On Tour, taking musical and theatrical acts from Kaitaia to Stewart Island.Read more
Millenials are leading the rise of the eco economy.Read more
Rum, cigars and Cuban sandwiches are on the menu at new Ponsonby restaurant, Cuba Libre.Read more
If turns out that some plastics marketed as eco-friendly degrade only to a certain point and often outlive their human recyclers.Read more
The NZ International Film Festival is 50 years old this year – find out how they choose the line-up from long-standing director Bill Gosden.Read more
New Zealand's youth-suicide rates are the highest in the OECD and the burden falls heavily on Māori and Pasifika peoples.Read more