[28 April/ Radio New Zealand]

Massey University ecologist, Mike Joy, said that comments from Nathan Guy, Minister for Primary Industries, that dairy farm intensification can’t go on is decades too late.  Mr Guy said that there was a limit to how many dairy cows New Zealand could handle the future would rely on increasing the value of milk rather than the volume.  A report from the Ministry for the Environment showed a 69% increase in dairy cow numbers between 1994 and 2015 while freshwater biodiversity had declined.  It also noted that nutrients from rural and urban waterways were a growing problem.  Mr Joy said he had been calling for an end to dairy farm intensification for more than two decades, adding that while farmers had been making positive incremental changes this had been against a background of intensification meaning that the net result is that things get worse.  Mr Joy also called for government funds set aside for irrigation to be redirected to riparian planting and other mitigation measures, including reducing the number of cows.  Irrigation New Zealand CEO, Andrew Curtis, said the call to stop irrigation was over the top as irrigation water supports some of our most productive regions including Marlborough and Central Otago.  Mr Guy said agriculture did harm the environment but the work farmers are doing to mitigate their impact on the environment should be acknowledged.