Dairy sector turns attention to on-farm action

6 August 2020

As the Government’s Action for Healthy Waterways becomes law, DairyNZ is turning its attention to what this now means on-farm.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said it is encouraging that Government has listened and made vital changes to elements of the freshwater proposal, including more time for some policies to be implemented.

“For many farmers, these changes cannot be made overnight. For example, the 190 kg cap for nitrogen fertiliser presented a real challenge for some farmers – particularly the tight timeframe to implement it,” said Dr Mackle.

“So, we are pleased Government has listened and is giving farmers consenting options that will phase reductions up to July 2023. This will give farmers breathing room to adjust their pasture, animal and people management.

“We are keen to ensure that timeframes for all regulations are fair and reflect the considerable effort made by dairy farmers to date.”

DairyNZ advocated for an evidence-based, pragmatic policy to be delivered through the freshwater proposal, to meet New Zealand’s water quality aspirations in a fair and efficient way.

“The Government has adapted some aspects of the original proposal and taken a better approach for others with science-based rules and practicality for farmers on the ground,” said Dr Mackle.

“Our original assessment showed we could deliver on water quality improvement with less economic pain. While DairyNZ is pleased the proposed DIN has been parked, analysis shows this measure should be completely dropped.

“The DIN attribute will not drive the ecosystem health outcomes the policy aimed to deliver. We also consider that the nitrogen toxicity standard of 2.4 g/m3 is too conservative for highly developed pastoral catchments,” said Dr Mackle.

“Simply put, we need to have realistic expectations about the type of aquatic biodiversity that these highly modified, productive catchments can support. It is unrealistic to set national bottom-lines based on protecting 95 percent of species when a lower level is justifiable, and still often aspirational to achieve.”   

He said the nitrate toxicity bottom lines confirmed today will severely affect farmers in some catchments, where significant action is underway to reduce their footprint in line with existing regional council policy plans.

DairyNZ will continue to work with farmers and regional councils to ensure rule changes provide adequate time for farm systems to adjust and reflect the timeframes needed for water quality improvements to be realised.

“DairyNZ will continue to work closely with farmers, regional government and stakeholders as the rubber hits the road with implementation,” said Dr Mackle.

“We acknowledge the Government’s funding through Jobs for Nature and look forward to working with them to support that aspect too.

“Healthy waterways are important to dairy farmers. We share the same aspirations to protect our streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands and are working as a sector to deliver on environmental goals.”

More information is available at dairynz.co.nz/freshwater.

Media inquiries:

Vanessa Feaver

Senior Media Manager

Phone 027 836 6295


Ali Tocker

Media Advisor

Phone 027 211 2159


Photo usage: If you require high-resolution versions of photos featured in this article, please contact info@dairynz.co.nz