Skip to main content.

2 Introduction

2.1 The Dairying and Clean Streams Accord

The Dairying and Clean Streams Accord ('the Accord') was agreed between Fonterra Co-operative Group (which comprises over 95 percent of New Zealand's dairy industry), the Minister for the Environment, the Minister of Agriculture, and regional councils in May 2003. The Accord reflects a commitment by these parties to improve the environmental performance of dairying, and has a goal of achieving 'clean healthy water in dairying areas'. The parties to the Accord agreed to work together towards developing practical solutions to protect and enhance water quality in dairying areas.

The Accord comprises five elements as follows:

Table 1: Elements of the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord

Accord objective
Accord national target

Dairy cattle are excluded from streams, rivers, lakes and their banks.

Dairy cattle are excluded from 50% of streams, [A stream is defined under the Accord as being a stride wide and a 'red band' deep or larger. In other words, about one metre wide and 15-20 cm deep.] rivers and lakes by 2007, 90% by 2012.

Regular (more than twice a week) crossing-points have bridges or culverts.

50% of regular crossing-points have bridges or culverts by 2007, 90% by 2012.

Farm dairy effluent is appropriately treated and discharged.

100% of dairy farm effluent discharge complies with resource consents and regional plans immediately.

Nutrients are managed effectively to minimise losses to ground and surface water.

100% of dairy farms have in place systems to manage nutrient inputs and outputs by 2007.

Existing regionally significant or important wetlands (as defined by regional councils) are fenced and their natural water regimes are protected.

50% of regionally significant wetlands fenced by 2005, 90% by 2007.

The Accord was agreed in response to increasing public and industry awareness of the detrimental environmental effects of land-use intensification, particularly dairying. Fish and Game New Zealand led an awareness-raising campaign that became known as the 'Dirty Dairying Campaign'. The campaign followed a time when there had been significant development of dairying in areas that were traditionally non-dairying areas (e.g. Canterbury and Southland). The dairy industry recognised the need to maintain a competitive global advantage that is built upon marketing products seen as being produced in a 'clean and green' environment.

2.2 Implementation of the Accord

Fonterra report that, as of the 2004/05 dairy season, progress towards Accord targets is as follows (the information presented excludes the Taranaki region): [Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited, 2004/05 Environmental and Animal Welfare Assessment.]

  • Seventy-two percent of Fonterra suppliers have waterways that meet the definition in the Accord. The highest proportions of farms with Accord waterways are in Marlborough and Southland, with over 80 percent of farms including such waterways. On average each farm with Accord waterways has about five to six km of stream banks (i.e. on both sides of the stream) from which stock should be excluded.
  • Of the Fonterra farms with Accord waterways, 55 percent now have stock excluded from those waterways. This means the 2007 target of 50 percent stock exclusion has already been met. Including those farms with no Accord waterways, 72 percent of suppliers have stock fully excluded. This proportion is highest in Auckland, Northland, Canterbury, Otago and Southland, and lowest in Wellington, Tasman and Marlborough.
  • All but 400 (7 percent) of the 5612 crossings in the nation are bridged or culverted. The 2012 target of 90 percent of stock crossings bridged or culverted by 2012 has already been met.
  • Although no data are presented, the target of 100 percent of farm dairy effluent discharges complying with resource consents and regional plans has not been met.
  • Nationally, only 19 percent of dairy farms have a nutrient budget included in their fertiliser programme. This is only 2 percent up from the 17 percent reported in the previous year. However, the two large fertiliser companies have indicated they will provide a nutrient budget for all their clients, and Fonterra are working with Dexcel to increase farmer awareness of nutrient management. The target of 100 percent of suppliers having systems in place to manage nutrient inputs or outputs by 2007 remains a distant goal at this time, but Fonterra are confident they will at least come close to meeting it.
  • In the three regions where regionally significant wetlands have been identified, the 2007 target of 90 percent of such wetlands being fenced out has been met.

In conclusion, progress towards the waterway stock exclusion and bridging/culverting targets is very good, but the nutrient budgeting target is lagging behind at present.

2.3 Roles of Accord partners

There are 12 regional councils and four unitary authorities in New Zealand. Collectively known as regional authorities, these councils are responsible for water resource management and management of all discharges to the environment in their respective regions. Regional authorities are the regulators who control the environmental effects of activities undertaken by dairy farmers.

Thirteen of these 16 regional authorities have significant numbers of Fonterra dairy suppliers in their region, varying from 62 and 75 in Hawke's Bay and Marlborough respectively, to over 2,000 in Taranaki and over 4,400 in the Waikato. The three exceptions are the Gisborne District and Nelson City unitary authorities, which have virtually no dairying, and the West Coast region, where Westland Dairy operate and the Accord does not apply.

Of the 13 regions with Fonterra suppliers, 12 have now completed a Regional Action Plan (RAP). The exception is Environment Bay of Plenty, who are intending to prepare an RAP in line with their Proposed Regional Water and Land Plan.

The RAPs cover details of council-led regional programmes that aim to encourage farmers to implement good farming practice in line with the Accord's objectives. Examples of these programmes include provision of advice, encouragement of best management practice (BMP), incentive and funding schemes for riparian tree planting and planning/planting assistance for farmers whose properties border significant wetlands. The plans also commit Fonterra and regional authorities to carry out particular actions in each region.

Most RAPs follow a template approach promoted by Fonterra for the five elements of the Accord. Different approaches have been used in the Taranaki and Otago regions, and the RAP for the Marlborough District focuses on stream crossings. In Otago, a Memorandum of Understanding has been developed that sits alongside the Accord dealing with the effects of mole and tile drains.

The 12 RAPs outline how progress towards meeting Accord targets will be monitored. This focuses, however, on the measurement of the five 'inputs' to the Accord, as listed in Table 1 above. There was no requirement in these first plans to monitor the environmental benefits of implementing the Accord.

This Strategy sets out a programme to assess the environmental outcomes of the Accord.

2.4 Present monitoring of Accord progress

The current monitoring of the Accord is focused on assessing progress against the five on-farm management practice 'inputs' specified in the Accord itself. Compliance with the third target (appropriate treatment and discharge of dairy effluent) is generally assessed through the routine compliance monitoring actions of regional authorities. There is no direct monitoring of the possible environmental outcomes of implementing the Accord.

The present monitoring of the Accord inputs is predominantly undertaken by two independent assessors, Agri Quality and Quality Consultants New Zealand (QCONZ), carrying out a verbal assessment at the time of Fonterra suppliers' annual farm dairy assessment. These two companies have existing relationships with farmers as they are contracted by Fonterra to report on the management of milk quality.

This information is then collated on a regional and national basis by Fonterra. There are two complete data sets, for the 2003/04 and 2004/05 seasons respectively. A report has been prepared for each data set and is circulated to all Accord partners. Summary statistics and relevant regional information is also supplied to other stakeholders at Fonterra's discretion.

Early in 2005, Fonterra contracted three independent assessors to undertake auditing of the farmer-generated information collated by Fonterra in the Waikato, Canterbury and Northland regions. Seventy independent on-farm assessments were carried out in the Waikato, and 20 in each of the other regions.

The results of this independent audit are detailed in the 2004/05 annual report. All three assessors believed the results of the audit supported continued verbal assessment. Areas of discrepancy were in the cases where farmers were asked to estimate figures, and occasionally where a farmer had misinterpreted a question.

In discussions with regional authority staff, a number of options were explored as to how this independent auditing should occur and who should undertake it. Some councils already did elements of their own independent auditing, particularly relating to matters such as fencing out of streams. Some councils expressed concerns that if they undertook auditing, this would conflict with their regulatory and/or extension roles.

Overall, there was general agreement there needed to be some selected independent auditing of verbal reporting currently underway. Furthermore, the need for, and scope of, this independent auditing will also need to be reviewed on a regular basis.