DairyNZ trying to ‘own’ ORC planning: Greenpeace

Cattle gather at a feed break on the Taieri yesterday. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
DairyNZ is lobbying the Otago Regional Council to alter its upcoming environmental rules to be more friendly to farmers.

The council’s land and water plan will be notified in June, but before then, it is working with DairyNZ and other interest groups on proposed good management practices (GMPs) for farming.

But Greenpeace is accusing DairyNZ of trying to "own" the planning process.

DairyNZ correspondence, released to the Otago Daily Times under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, showed the industry body has already expressed concern about many of the proposed measures and wants several changes before they go out for public comment.

It also pushed back against any suggested implementation of region-wide regulations above that of GMPs, because of the nature of the activities and the sometimes-high cost to farmers associated with them.

"The relative cost/benefit of an activity is farm specific.

"For some farms a certain mitigation option will offer significant benefit relative to cost, while the same mitigation on another farm may be costly and result in little to no benefit."

Greenpeace lead climate campaigner Christine Rose was not surprised by the tone of the correspondence.

"It’s clear that DairyNZ wants to ‘own’ the regional plan development process and control the regulations that finally make it into the ORC land and water plan."

One GMP suggested guidelines was for all dairy and dairy support animals to be wintered in a covered wintering barn during the four months from autumn until calving.

DairyNZ’s correspondence said this would have huge financial implications not only for the building of the infrastructure but also the operation.

"If farmers don’t have the skill set to ensure successful implementation there is increased risk of poor environmental outcomes, and the system risks an increase in nitrogen surplus through the importation of silage to feed in the infrastructure."

Ms Rose said this comment was telling.

"The social licence of big dairy is undermined by cows and calves forced to live in cold mud, partly because of welfare concerns but also because of soil and water degradation.

"Regulations at regional level are appropriate to manage impacts on nature and animals."

On the protection of wetlands, DairyNZ’s correspondence said "we strongly believe that the regional plan should contain enabling provisions, supporting the enhancement or maintenance of wetlands, but that this should not be a requirement falling solely on farmers".

The correspondence requested farming generally be a permitted activity with a requirement to have a farm environment plan.

Any requirement in the plan which might mean a large capital investment for farmers, should be treated as "significant".

Regulation of land use change or intensification was an important and nuanced conversation, heavily contingent on what was considered "intensification".

But Ms Rose said there needed to be more rules, not less, because of the "damage done already by intensive dairying".

"The hypocrisy from DairyNZ is clear — on the one hand, they call for freshwater farm plans over regional rules, but at the same time have fought these and other regulations."