Fonterra Co-operative Group’s increased emphasis on improving water quality in lakes, rivers, and streams has been welcomed by the Otago Regional Council (ORC).
The dairy cooperative has announced it will require its suppliers to ensure that all waterways on their farms which are covered by the Clean Streams Accord are fenced. It will achieve this by inserting a new clause into its terms and conditions for milk supply.
Suppliers who lag behind in compliance will have environmental improvement plans put in place, of which the new clause will be a integral part.
Farmers have 18 months from the beginning of next season to become compliant with Fonterra's new condition of supply.
Accord waterways are defined as being deeper than a gumboot, wider than a stride (one metre), and permanently flowing.
ORC chairman Stephen Woodhead welcomed the move.
“This is exactly the kind of outcome our Good Water Good Farming rural water quality strategy envisages. It is an excellent move and one we are right behind,” Mr Woodhead said.
The ORC strategy is aimed at maintaining and improving water quality in Otago’s rivers, lakes, and streams.
ORC’s proposed rules giving effect to the strategy will reduce contaminants from runoff, rural drains, and leaching, known as non-point source or diffuse pollution. They will also make some events such as stock causing pugging, slumping, or erosion to waterways a prohibited activity
Farmers are free to choose their own solutions for reducing the contaminant levels in water leaving their farms, based on their own knowledge and preferences.
The strategy leaves the type of response up to the individual, as long as they ensure that contaminant levels do not exceed the limits set in the Water Plan.
Mr Woodhead said fencing of waterways was one of several such recommended approaches for minimising contamination. Riparian buffers, having sufficient effluent storage, and using modern efficient effluent irrigation systems should also be priorities for dairy farmers who have various options available to them to keep waterways in good condition
ORC is nearing the end of a series of successful public meetings throughout the Otago region at which feedback is being sought on the strategy, and the proposed amendment of the Water Plan. The final meeting is on Tuesday (6 December) at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.
The rural water quality policy will be publicly notified in 2012.