Saturday, January 8, 2011

i'm leery

I have been having a real think about this proposal for Ngai Tahu to get into dairying after reading this article in Te Karaka. I don't want to knock ideas but I am not sure about this  - maybe my concerns are illusory, I hope so. I know the arguments in favour of this idea of dairy farms and I agree with some of them but I am one of those who are very leery of this.

Mark Solomon
Ngai Tahu plans a dairy farm totalling nearly 1000 hectares in Canterbury in a bid to develop a "new model" of sustainable farming.
If the pilot is successful, the iwi could develop a dairy operation totalling 16,000ha in Canterbury.
Ngai Tahu chairman Mark Solomon said the three-year trial would be monitored to see whether a dairy farm could be developed that did not pollute water and land.
There are a number of people in Ngai Tahu who are very leery about dairy farming and have a negative view," he said.
Our property firm believes we can run sustainable dairying, so we will have a look and see how they do. If they can show to Ngai Tahu that it's sustainable, then we will do it.
Is it possible to develop a dairy farm that doesn't pollute water or land - surely pollution is inevitable - just the amount is variable. It is a pilot for sure, but I worry about the effects on the land and river. Runanga have been fighting for years to protect the mauri of the waterways and rivers from water use for dairying and pollution. I struggle to see how this proposal and these fights can be reconcilled but apparently they have been.

The sustainability targets are very important - what is success? This is obviously the nub of the 'sustainability' angle and is part of the measurement of the success of the pilot, so a fair bit of work must be going into this area already. The difficulty is words like sustainability which often means different things to different people. "No pollution" is pretty clear though.

If dairy farms are going ahead then surely organic farms, where best practices for the treatment of the cows, water and land are met, should be strongly considered and piloted. Sure organic farms are not perfect but in combination with a permacultural approach they can produce product of high quality that is needed and wanted. Why not create the model within this sector. And plant trees for the cows to shelter under.

Are we potentially putting at risk the land and the river and the downside of getting it wrong is great.


robertguyton said...

Marty - I share your edginess about this proposal. I've spoken to several Ngai Tahu and they present their case enthuisiasically and somewhat cautiously, so there is hope that all care will be taken but still I'm anxious. I'm debating this point at Homepaddock just now. You might like to add your thoughts.
Basically, why take an industry like dairying and try to prove you can beat present practice. It's reputation is not good, especially for people who regard water and the health of te whenua as paramount. My suggestion that the ex-forestry land would be better developed as a 'broad-acre' mahi nga kai resource (eels, raupo etc.) has not met with any enthusiasm on-line.

Marty Mars said...

Kia ora rob,

The sustainability angle seems like a tack-on to me. But it will prove to be one of the major challenges. The powers that be are aware of that - it is up to them to deliver. But the risk of getting it wrong or making a mistake are high.

Your idea has merit - a pity that innovative ideas were not sought - I'm sure there would have been many that were inspirational.

Their plan is go, so we will have to watch it unfold now

Anonymous said...

Kia ora Marty

The topic of dairying is always an emotive one and such an easy target. Many other land use practices are less sustainable and more harmful to the environment than dairying. The simple fact is that if Ngai Tahu does not convert the land to highest and best use (in this case dairying) then someone else will.
And if Ngai Tahu can find the best and most environmentally sustainable way to do dairy farming and reduce the impact then i think that will be of huge benefit. I am tired of the folks who just say we should not do this or that - we have to be leaders and put our money where our mouth is and then we can make it the rule that all dairy farms must meet minimum standards.

Marty Mars said...

kia ora anon

I don't agree that if we don't, someone else will but if it is to be done then creating a model that doesn't pollute the land or river is the best way to go and a organic and permaculture dairy farm may be able to do that. Normal dairy farming practise will always pollute in some way shape or form and the degree of pollution is the issue. At some point decisions are made that are between the money and the pollution - I know, I have worked on a dairy farm and seen good men make those decisions and I think you know which way they went.