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Published: 2003-06-26 00:00:00

Waikato farmers are already recognising the value of good environmental performance, according to Environment Waikato.

This week’s Regional Council meeting endorsed the objectives of Fonterra Clean Streams Accord signed last month. The agreement sets a way forward to make practical on-farm changes to improve farming’s environmental performance. It includes fencing streams and lakes, using bridges and culverts to move stock over waterways, dairy shed effluent treatment and disposal, effective nutrient management to minimise losses to water and fencing to protect regionally significant waterways.

Environment Waikato had a good relationship with the dairy industry in the Region, and about 40 percent of the Region’s waterways were already fenced off from stock, Chief Executive Barry Harris said.

“Dairy effluent is also generally well managed and the benefits of nutrient management are readily apparent to those who are already using it. Significant savings are being made. It’s a matter of building on the good work that has already begun, not only the benefits of good environmental management to the industry but also to the Waikato community.”

He said Environment Waikato had a long history of working with the dairy industry, providing information and education for farmers. It had recently added a section of its website specifically for dairy farmers providing practical information on fencing, nutrient budgeting and effluent irrigation, as well as seasonal advice on issues such as paddock pugging.

This was supported by incentives, such as the Council’s $10 million Clean Streams Project. A total of 116 Waikato farmers are taking part in the project in its first year. A total of 227 km of fencing has been approved, with more farmers involved than predicted for the first year.

The agreement only applied to Fonterra, but Tatua Dairy Company had contacted Environment Waikato and was interested in a similar process, believing it was well on the way towards it, he said.

Deputy Chair Jenni Vernon said the agreement was significant and the way of the future.

“This is the way we will work with other key stakeholders in our community and it sets a very good positive message. As a dairy farmer I am proud to be associated with it.”

Cr Barry O’Connor said the Accord expressed some very good intentions for New Zealand and for the dairy industry.

Cr Evan Penny said the Accord was the most positive kind of response from the industry, which was to be hugely encouraged in any way the Council could.

“We will achieve far more with this than with rules. A lot of fencing is going on now and it helps to encourage and reassure those who have gone to the trouble that they are doing the right thing.”

Cr Andra Neeley said that while the benefits were clear in terms of market access, the value of high environmental performance for all New Zealanders should not be overlooked.