Debate rages over dairy farms

Twizel's Rick Ramsay speaks his mind at last night's meeting. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Twizel's Rick Ramsay speaks his mind at last night's meeting. Photo by Linda Robertson.
"Enough is enough", a meeting on proposed dairy farm development in the Omarama-Ohau region was told last night.

Dairy farming was a dirty industry and, with the sheer scale of what was being proposed and the change from traditional farming, people were saying enough, Omarama Residents Association chairman Bill Gordon told a public meeting in Twizel.

About 120 people attended the at times heated meeting to debate controversial proposals for 16 new dairy farms in the area, with up to 17,850 cows housed in cubicle stalls.

The meeting was to inform people about the proposals from three companies - Five Rivers Ltd, Southdown Holdings Ltd and Williamson Holdings Ltd - and their projects' potential downstream environmental effects.

Concerns were expressed that it was a one-sided debate and there was no representation from the three companies.

Doug McIntyre, a dairy farmer, said it did not really give people "sitting on the fence" a chance to analyse things from a neutral point of view.

Mackenzie farmer John Murray said he was concerned about the lack of balance at the meeting, along with untruths and "downright lies", and told those present to be careful about what they wished for.

He questioned what the alternative would be if dairying was turned down and suggested it could be a lot worse.

Intensive beef fattening did not require land-use consent and the stocking rate would be as intensive as a dairy farm, while manure would not be collected and spread at a time when it was doing the least environmental damage.

One of the organisers, Scott Aronsen, said the meeting had been "thrown together" as submissions closed on Friday, and nothing could be done about the fact no-one turned up in support of the applications.

Waitaki First chairwoman Dr Helen Brookes told the meeting she was "personally flabbergasted" that applications for land-use consent had been treated in a non-notified way, and it had been suggested some people might want to pass a vote of no confidence in the Waitaki District Council.

She pointed to a pro forma submission, available at the meeting, that people could use to oppose the applications.

Twizel resident Frank Hocken said the proposals were not factory farming and people should let those behind them have a chance and let them go through the process.

"If you don't want farmers in the Mackenzie Basin, get your millions of dollars out . . . and buy all these farmers out - simple as that," Mr Hocken said.

A message from Green Party co-leader Russel Norman read to the meeting said the many issues included the huge volume of effluent and the impact on water quality, the loss of landscape values, animal welfare implications of "battery cow" farming and the effect on [New Zealand's] international brand.

Central Otago artist Grahame Sydney sent a message saying the proposal was "so wrong and unacceptable" and must be opposed.

While the Waitaki District Council had issued non-notified land-use consent for the dairy farms, deeming the impacts and effects to be less than minor, it seemed to be "so tragically isolated in that view", Sydney said.

Haikai Tane, who works in the field of watershed ecology, said the Waitaki watershed was "way below" even average condition, due to 500 years of human impact.

He wondered why there was debate about further allocation of water when rivers could not be kept flowing.

"This is not farming at all.

"What we're talking about is an industrial activity," he said.

It could jeopardise the salmon and watersports industries, he said.

Hearings on the proposals are tentatively scheduled for early March in Christchurch.

 

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