Future discussion around water use is inevitable, and a necessary part of a broader conversation about sustainability challenges New Zealand is facing, says DairyNZ Chief Executive Tim Mackle.
“Water allocation is a very challenging issue, and a Water Roundtable could be a good starting point,” Dr Mackle says.
“I expect a Water Roundtable would build on the existing package of work being carried out under the dairy sectors’ Water Accord, and the Ministry for the Environment’s Clean Water Package.
“Environmental policy and economic policy are very closely linked. The dairy sector is already looking at different farming practices and how to balance profitability and productivity with environmental outcomes as part of climate change action plan.
“We know that environmental sustainability isn’t an option, it’s a necessity. I can say with confidence that the dairy sector is committed to farming sustainably.”
Dr Mackle also said that Labour’s proposal to introduce a water royalty for commercial water users would be difficult and require extensive consultation around the regions.
“Within a farming business, just like any business, commercial water rates already apply. Our farmers also pay for access to irrigation, and access to water on their land through council consents. Water royalties could potentially duplicate these costs.
“Labour earlier hinted that such a levy wouldn’t result in a cost increase for farming, but without a robust conversation about how their water royalty policy will work we can’t know exactly how this would affect dairy farmers.”
Dr Mackle commented on Labours proposed Ready to Work programme, saying the young people targeted won’t have a lot to do on New Zealand dairy farms.
“Labour want to employ young people to fence off waterways and plant alongside rivers and streams. They may not know this, but dairy farmers already have this work well underway.
“Dairy farmers are already voluntarily fencing waterways – amounting to almost 27,000 km of fencing along 97% of waterways.
“We’ve also invested huge effort in developing guidelines for planting alongside rivers and streams in all regions so farmers have the best advice about how to improve environmental outcomes on their farms.
“The fact that almost all dairy cows are now excluded from dairy freshwater lakes, streams, and rivers shows how serious dairy farmers are about protecting New Zealand waterways.”