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Chairman Nicol Horrell responds to DairyNZ’s misleading statement

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Environment Southland, in partnership with Te Ao Marama, is working through a transparent and open process to meet community expectations and Government requirements around water quality.

It is disappointing that Dairy NZ is making misleading statements about a process they are involved in.

First, let me clear up the inaccuracies in DairyNZ’s recent statement. Environment Southland has NOT announced any water quality targets or limits, nor has it released any new information over the holidays.

We are working through a step by step process that started some years ago. We will continue asking questions and talking to the community over the next two years before updating and finalising the Southland Water and Land Plan.

Recently, we’ve taken our current assessment of environmental health, and compared it to our draft freshwater objectives (or goals). Then we modelled the reductions in contaminants that could be required from waterways, to meet the draft objectives.

Environment Southland and Te Ao Marama Inc have been sharing this science information and modelling directly with various groups for the past 18 months as it was being developed and will continue that approach through this year. This has included science technical sessions, briefings to stakeholders, including DairyNZ and the Federated Farmers executive; plus a number of presentations to catchment and stakeholder groups and community boards.

To be clear, while this information provides a sense of the scale of reductions needed, these numbers are not limits that an individual farm, property or business needs to meet over any particular timeframe.

The Regional Forum is due to provide advice to the Council and Te Ao Marama later this year on limits and methods to achieve the community’s values and outcomes for freshwater and estuaries.

We will then draw together all the environmental science, regional economic analysis, mātauranga Māori (knowledge) and input from Southlanders to develop an update to the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan by the end of 2023, which will include limits for a 10-year period. There will be a number of opportunities for the public to be involved and provide feedback.

Our science modelling work has followed a sound and well established methodology that has been used by the Ministry for the Environment and other regions in New Zealand. As part of our process the work was shared with 20-odd stakeholders to get their feedback on the science. The feedback was used to further refine our work before it was publicly released. DairyNZ participated in this process.

The process of reviewing the science is continuing with an independent panel being sought to peer review the science to further ensure its robustness.

The numbers in the scientific modelling are confronting and the scale of change needed to get improvements in our waterways over the next 25 years is significant, but not insurmountable. Right now we are focusing on improving water quality in the first 10 years. Its important people take the time to understand the information and to think about their activities whether on farm, in business or in town and any improvements they can make. Innovation and systems change will also make a difference in the long run.

We chose to release the science once modelling was available for four key contaminants, while work continued to look at other contaminants and levers of change. This has meant that some science has become available ahead of work exploring social and economic impacts. DairyNZ has always been informed of the process sequence and its assertion that we haven’t provided some of the information they have been asking for during the past six months is misleading.

There is more information on our approach to achieving water quality improvements available on our website. There’s also the set of science technical reports and other supporting information on the contaminant reduction modelling -

My council is committed to setting the region on the right path to improve water quality within a generation, as we are required to do. We are also committed to ensuring we do it in a way that is going to work for Southland.

I encourage people to check the website to stay updated, to join their local catchment group or to get in touch if they have questions.

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