NZ Dairy Winter 2022

| 89 nzdairy “My recommendation to a dairy farmer is have a look at their farm system and see what they can do to get their Overseer number down to 8kg.” Richard Loader DAIRY PEOPLE - CANTERBURY » Federated Farmers - Mid Canterbury: Canterbury Dairy Farming When the Ardern led Labour government passed the Freshwater NPS 2020 into legislation, stating a freshwater soluble nitrate level of 2.4mg/litre in lowland streams, it effectively donned the black cap, passing a terminal sentence on Mid- Canterbury dairy farming. A report completed by Macfarlane Rural Business suggests dramatic changes will be required to the farming system with a third of Mid Canterbury having to be planted in pine trees. David Clark, immediate past Provincial President of Federated Farmers says that, in his opinion, the 2.4mg/litre in lowland streams is an overreach of legislation. “When this level has to be achieved is murky. The Government says a generation, but won’t de ne how long that generation is. In 2024 ECan will publicly notify a new Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan ahead of the expected lifetime of the existing plan, which has to give effect to this target. That means all consenting and auditing decisions will have to be based on the 2.4mg/litre. They can only be but extremely restrictive. The rules as written, means it will be extremely hard to remain dairy farming in Mid Canterbury, and achieve 2.4mg/litre. So yes, farmers should be concerned.” Within the last couple of decades, there has undoubtedly been a signi cant swing to dairy farming in the region, with a great urry of conversions. Arguably, the landscape lends itself very well to dairy farming and the advent of centre pivots has made it a very ef cient region to grow grass and milk dairy cows. “In the early 2000s there was a big push to form Fonterra, grow the dairy industry and send product to China, and let’s not forget that a lot of that was done under the Helen Clark administration,” says David. “That brought massive economic and social advantages for Canterbury. By 2010 it was recognised that there was an absence of legislation to adequately manage intensi cation. When the Ecan elected councillors were sacked, Commissioners were appointed who set about writing and implementing the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan to provide clear direction on how land and water was to be managed in the region. That plan was produced 2014 – 2016 and set a Canterbury ground water target of 6.9mg/litre — half of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) water standard of 11.3mg/litre. That had unanimous community buy-in, and there were some pretty tough targets and changes to reach that level.” In essence the 6.9mg target put an end to intensi cation and put in place baselines. Nothing could be done on farm that exceeded the baseline activity and there were targeted reductions back from the baseline. “It is my very rm view that we were far better to have achieved 6.9mg/litre with baseline targets that could be achieved, and which would actually make a difference. Tearing that plan up ahead of time and spending $20 million to remove those targets and replace them with targets that we haven’t got a hope of achieving isn’t going to achieve anything. Family photo on Te Mata Peak in Hawke’s Bay. David, Jayne, Sam, Charlie, James Pam and Terry Clark. Cracking on with Autumn cultivation at Valetta. From all the anti-farming, anti-dairying groups that scaremonger about health impacts in Canterbury, saying the levels that are in place are far too high and we must achieve these new targets, what we never hear is context.” That context is quite simply fair comparison. The current targets of 6.9mg/litre compares very favourably with the drinking water that is delivered to taps in the city of London that has a nitrate level of 7.0mg/litre. “If we can achieve, in all of Canterbury’s ground water, a nitrate level the same as the ltered and treated drinking water delivered in London, it wouldn’t be a bad result. The New Zealand Ministry of Health has not identi ed or agged any health issues in Canterbury’s drinking water. We have to defer to experts such as the Ministry of Health and WHO.” David says to achieve 2.4mg/litre in Mid Canterbury it is estimated that all farmers would have to have an Overseer nitrate loss of somewhere between 6 and 8 kg a hectare. “My recommendation to a dairy farmer is have a look at their farm system and see what they can do to get their Overseer number down to 8kg. In the absence of technology, which doesn’t exist, that is not achievable. The only way we can turn this around is get the legislation altered. Either, a new government decides to put targets in that are sensible and achievable, or we suffer the economic consequences of having to end irrigated agriculture and dairying.” An overreach of legislation ww Ph: +64 7 349 8470 1180 Amohia Street, Rotorua 3010 engineers | surveyors | planners • Subdivision • Land Use Compatibility • Soil Contamination • Resource Consents Proudly supporting the rural community since 1940. 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