Fonterra and the Department of Conservation have announced a $20 million community investment to improve the natural habitats of some key waterways aver the next decade.
As part of Fonterra’s Living Water initiatives, Fonterra Director John Monaghan and the Minister of Conservation Hon Dr Nick Smith officially launched the 10-year investment this morning at Lake Areare, a Peat Lake in the Waikato. The investment will initially focus on five key catchments in significant dairying regions.
Mr Monaghan said Fonterra and DOC will work together to make these waterways living examples of how dairy farming and natural New Zealand environments can work alongside each other.
“Our streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands are important to every New Zealander. Today’s announcement is about investing time and resources to improve their quality so that we can all enjoy our natural environment at its best and ensure this can occur alongside a sustainable dairy industry.”
DOC Director General Al Morrison said quality waterways are pivotal to maintaining the healthy environments which protect native wildlife and also underpin a sustainable dairy industry.
“We all realise that our waterways need ongoing support and it makes perfect sense for DOC to be working with New Zealand’s largest dairy co-operative to improve water catchment health.
“By working together, we can deliver additional conservation gains in some of our most sensitive catchments.”
Initially, Fonterra and DOC will work with local communities to make a difference to the water quality at five waterways:
• Kaipara Harbour
• Firth of Thames
• Waikato Peat Lakes
• Te Waihora-Lake Ellesmere
As the expert in conservation and biodiversity, DOC will work with Fonterra, local communities, iwi and farmers to help clean up waterways and wetlands at the five selected catchment areas. This will include planting trees alongside streams and rivers to improve water quality, managing pests and weeds and making sure that the right habitats are in place around farms to enhance biodiversity and provide homes for native fish and birds.
Mr Monaghan said the work with DOC will build on the good progress made by Fonterra’s Catchment Care programme, which has seen improvements to two million square metres of land and waterways through planting, weeding and other volunteer work over the past three years.
“Working together with DOC is part of Fonterra’s Living Water initiative and the long-term commitment we are making to do what’s right for the land and waterways in their communities,” he said.
Mr Monaghan said that while improving water quality and on-farm water management practices has been a priority for Fonterra and our farmers for a number of years, the dairy industry still has work to do.
“This initiative with DOC is part of our ongoing determination through all of our Living Water initiatives to work together, and engage with local communities to make a real difference to the health of waterways.”
Local Waikato farmer, Bas Nelis, said it is great that Fonterra is working on both sides of the farm gate to make a difference to water quality and the environment.
“I believe farming is going to be here for a long time ahead of us, I’m still young so I want to look after this farm for the next generation, for my kids, to make sure it is sustainable for the future.”
Conservation Minister Nick Smith describes this initiative as a major break-through:
“Fonterra’s commitment of $20m is the largest ever corporate contribution to conservation work. It will fund a massive programme to be undertaken with communities to restore wetland habitats, better control nutrients, reduce pests and weeds and enhance native wildlife,” Dr Smith says.
“The investment is important but the partnership is even more significant. The greatest benefit from this DOC/Fonterra agreement is getting conservationists and farmers side-by-side in their local communities doing the practical work to improve waterways. . .
“DOC and Fonterra working so closely together will come as a bit of a shock for some conservationists and farmers who see the two groups as protagonists and not partners. This is DOC wanting to help Fonterra succeed as New Zealand’s largest exporting business and major land user and Fonterra adding its muscle to DOC’s critical work caring for the natural environment.
“This partnership is part of the Government’s Bluegreen agenda of drawing business and conservation closer together to support economic growth and jobs while protecting our natural environment and great Kiwi lifestyle,” Dr Smith says. . .
The Sustainable Business Council says the partnership demonstrates a recognition by business of its dependence and impact on ecosystem services:
“Without fresh, quality water, it’s not just our environment that will suffer, but our economy too,” says Penny Nelson, Executive Director of the Sustainable Business Council.
“Fonterra plays a major role in New Zealand’s primary industry-based economy, and this initiative to improve the biodiversity and water values in some of the catchment areas it affects is exciting. It’s really encouraging to see business’s commitment to conservation partnerships scaling up. We fully support this new partnership and look forward to seeing more New Zealand companies engaging with DOC in this manner.
“Fonterra and DOC are actively engaged in the Sustainable Business Council’s ecosystem services work programme. There are some really useful corporate tools & training that have been developed by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development which are starting to be used in New Zealand”.
The response isn’t entirely positive though, the Green Party shows its bias against business in general and dairying and Fonterra in particular:
Through budget cuts the National Government is forcing the Department of Conservation (DOC) to rely on handouts from companies like Fonterra, the co-operative behind one of New Zealand’s most polluting industries, Green Party conservation spokesperson Eugenie Sage said today. . .
“DOC has a responsibility under the Conservation Act to advocate for nature to protect the rivers, lakes and streams that Kiwi’s love and native fish and invertebrates that live in them. This agreement puts that at risk.
“The continued restructuring and downsizing of DOC with loss of technical and field staff and closure of area offices also risks staff being diverted from other tasks to work on the five Fonterra projects.
“National Government funding cuts mean DOC has to beg for money while environmental NGOs and community organisations attempt to do key parts of DOC’s work.
“The Conservation Department should be funded adequately so it can pursue its own priorities and not be steered into projects that corporates want.
“If Fonterra really wanted to do something for the environment it could work to restrain the growth of intensive dairying and stop dairy expansion in sensitive catchments like the Mackenzie Basin and Southland’s Waituna Lagoon.”
The Green Party is quick to criticise any business for a negative impact on the environment and is incapable of acknowledging the good a partnership like this could do.
It would rather spend taxpayers money than accept help from business but appears not to realise that the money the government gives to DOC comes from taxes paid by businesses including Fonterra and individual taxpayers including dairy farmers.
The party is so blinkered it can’t see past its anti-business, anti-dairying bias to the environmental benefits from this initiative.
DOC and Fonterra in partnership will do more to improve waterways than either could do separately and at far less cost to the taxpayer.