The Horizons Regional Council’s victory at the Environmental Court which found that farmers deserve no special treatment and should follow the rules like anyone else when it comes to curbing their pollution, is of major importance. It’s late but better than never.
The vast majority of farmers are environmentally responsible and many are passionate about not despoiling waterways in any way. This is a victory for them and round condemnation of the ignorant rump in that fraternity who arrogantly think they have some sort of birthright to generate wealth for themselves off the back of environmental destruction.
The requirement to restrict excessive runoff of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous is no different to requiring a manufacturer to limit the polluting consequences of any process. Nature has an amazing ability to absorb what we throw at her but it certainly isn’t infinite.
Further, the natural injustice that arises when one person’s economic advantage is secured at the expense of damaging the property of others, is one too often government’s turn a blind eye to.
All of which makes the indignant reaction of Federated Farmers to the Environment Court decision disappointing, reminiscent of the dark days when the outfit was led by ACT myopic, Don Nicholson. I thought this lobby group had grown up a bit under Bruce Wills. It needs to.
The dairy industry in New Zealand long ago eschewed vertical integration into marketing and consumer products. It has left that, the most profitable end of the value chain, to the Nestle’s and Krafts of this world and kept to a strategy of raising raw milk production decade after decade and converting that to a transportable form of powdered manufactured ingredients. An interesting business strategy for sure, that’s entrenched primarily because of the legacy of regulatory protection of farmer cooperatives.
That introverted view saw all industry profits flowing back behind the farm gate, irrespective of where in the supply chain they were made. Under this regime it’s logical for the industry owners to simply boost the volume of raw milk on-farm. It’s the only path they’ve had to greater profits. Unsurprisingly the consequence of that lethargic business model is that the population of dairy cows has exploded from 2 million to 4.5 million over 30 years.
But as we know cows are major pollutants so the clash between their numbers and the environment, particularly waterways, was bound to happen. It’s surprising that the environmental authorities have been so slow to define the ecological boundaries. Thankfully we have a huge number of farmers who are conscious of the damage their industry causes anyway and have designed their farm practices accordingly. The efforts of that majority needs to be recognised more widely.
But there are always the laggards, those who simply don’t care about the consequences of their actions and clearly the forthcoming tightening of limits on their activities will generate indignant squeals from them. What isn’t acceptable however is that a national farming lobby group becomes chief apologist for such a retarded attitude. It undermines the good work and good name of so many farmers who are doing great environmental mitigation work.
Progressive farmers should form their own lobby group, there’s few benefits being tarred with the brush of environmental retards. Leave that to Federated Farmers and their ignorant rump.