by Russel Norman
I want to congratulate Fonterra for announcing that all waterways on Fonterra farms must be fenced within 18 months as condition of supply. This is a positive step in addressing our declining water quality.
Previously Fonterra farmers were encouraged to fence off their waterways as part of the voluntary Clean Streams Accord. But it’s great to see Fonterra acknowledging voluntary measures don’t work for everyone. Some people require rules with consequences for non-compliance to convince them to do the right thing.
Fencing cows out of streams improves water quality by limiting river bank erosion which leads to sediment getting into waterways. Sediment is bad for rivers because it clogs up the spaces in between rocks where fish and insects live, and introduces phosphorous into the rivers which can lead to toxic algae growth.
However, fencing does not address the problem of nitrogen seeping into groundwater. Nitrogen − along with phosphorous − causes the growth of algae and the loss of freshwater habitat.
In order to control the amount of nitrogen in the groundwater it’s necessary to control the amount of nitrogen-based fertiliser going on the land and also stocking intensities. The Green Party would do this with a National Environmental Standard for Intensive Agriculture, which is part of our plan to make our rivers and lakes clean enough to swim in again.
Clean rivers and lakes was a priority for the Green Party for the general election campaign, and it continues to be a priority as we seek to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government.
While it is great that Fonterra has taken this positive step of mandatory fencing of waterways, we need a comprehensive plan that addresses other sources of pollution.