Cattle banned from waterways

By Laura Mills

The National Party has promised to ban dairy cattle from waterways, but says it will allow West Coast farmers who deal with metres of rainfall each year to use electric fencing.
Prime Minister John Key and Environment Minister Amy Adams announced the policy yesterday at Waituna Lagoon, in Southland, including $100 million over 10 years to buy farmland next to sensitive waterways to use as an environmental shield to protect water quality.
Ms Adams praised farmers for fencing off 90% of waterways to date, but said it was time to move to a compulsory ban on dairy cattle. Dairy cattle would be excluded from waterways by July 1, 2017, and National would work to extend that to other types of cattle over time.
“The dairy sector has done a tremendous job on a voluntary basis to date but we think it’s now the time to move that to a mandatory requirement by 2017,” Ms Adams said.
West Coast Regional Council chairman Andrew Robb, a dairy farmer, said much would depend on how the Government defined a waterway. For instance, when it rained on the Coast, water ran through the hollows on humped and hollowed land.
On his own farm in the Grey Valley, he would have to fence about 3km of waterway.
“The industry is already leaning that way (more fencing),” Mr Robb said.
Westland Milk Products general manager operations Bernard May said the majority of its shareholders were already either fully compliant or well on the way towards full compliance, and it was impressed with the willingness of farmers to work within the principles of the Water Accord and Farm Ex.
“Our shareholders will welcome the timetable for achieving full exclusion as it gives them time to build their fencing programme into an achievable budget,” Mr May said.
Westland Milk’s Farm Excellence (Farm Ex) standards, formerly referred to as the code of practice, supported the exclusion of stock from main waterways and listed wetlands using the same criteria as the Water Accord.
“We are pleased that the minister has acknowledged that farmers in areas like the West Coast, where difficult geography and high rainfall pose special challenges, need to have the flexibility to use the form of exclusion best suited to their properties,” Mr May said.
“For Coast farmers in flood prone areas, for example, this is probably going to mean simple electric fencing, as the risk of loss of costly permanent fencing is too high.
“The goal is exclusion of stock, and done properly temporary or electric fencing is just as capable of achieving this. For stock crossings of secondary waterways, Westland will adhere to the standards and guidelines set by the West Coast Regional Council.”
Federated Farmers’ West Coast president Katie Milne said most farming on the Coast was more extensive than intensive.
“That said, there’s been a hell of a lot of work to put in fences, bridges and culverts on those farms unable to meet permitted activity rules. It proves the system is working since the more intensive guys and farmers like me, in sensitive catchments, have had to fence and bridge,” Miss Milne said.
“It’s all good to say you can put up a portable fence but beef runs are miles from power. Portable solar units run slow as we’ve learned and cows also figure this out quickly too,” she said.