There’s no satisfying the muesli mob.
Fonterra has announced measures to help its farmer shareholders meet regional council rules for effluent management, a scheme it calls the Effluent Improvement System.
The explicit goal is to cut significant non-compliance by 50 per cent by August 2011.
Fonterra plans to re-direct staff resource to help advise farmers who have been identified as needing support.
More important, when it comes to hitting cockies in the pocket, it is introducing a milk payout deduction system for those who receive infringement notices or are prosecutions for an effluent offence from a regional council.
Not immediately. This will kick in from the 2010/11 season.
A deduction of $1,500 will be incurred for infringement notices and $3,000 for prosecutions.
Farmers who spend that amount, or more, on improving their effluent management system, will be able to offset that sum against their expenses.
Sounds fair enough to Alf.
Some cockies will say it’s a bit bloody tough.
But the Greens want blood.
The party today released a statement in the name of co-leader Russel Norman to say the proposal to withhold “a tiny portion of the milk payout payments” from polluters shows Fonterra is still not serious about promoting responsible farming and cleaning up rivers.
“Fonterra’s proposal is less than a slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket for polluters, and is an insult to the many farmers who are doing the right thing”, said Green Party Co-Leader Russel Norman.
“The big industrial polluters will ignore it, the environment will wear the cost, and those farmers doing the right thing will continue to have their reputations tarnished by the bad eggs.
Norman regards the fines as insignificant and the target as pathetic – “this is illegal activity, for goodness sake”.
He is howling for a fine per kilogram of milk solids and – with persistent offenders – the cancellation of supply contracts.
The statement says
“A repeat drink-driver loses their license, but Fonterra and the Government allow persistent polluters to continue despoiling our rivers and streams, threatening water supplies and our tourism industry.
“Many of the worst farms are multi-million dollar giant industrial operations for whom $3000 is peanuts. In August 2007, the 4500-cow Taharua Farm in Hawkes Bay was convicted for breaching its effluent resource consents, Dr Norman noted. The operators were found to be running 1500 more cows on their farm than they had consent for. The extra effluent drained into the Mohaka River, which is protected by a Water Conservation Order for its outstanding natural values.
“For Taharua Farm, a $3000 fine would have been less than 0.1% of their $5 million turnover – nothing compared to the additional $1.5million of income they received from the 1500 illegal cows”, Dr Norman said
“However, a fine of even a tiny 20c per kilogram of milk solids produced would have cost Taharua $220,000 – something they could not ignore.”
Fish & Game New Zealand, an outfit persistently haranguing dairy farmers over pollution issues, more reasonably welcomed Fonterra’s measures to lift dairy effluent compliance, but urges a much more robust approach.
There’s plenty of carping, too.
“Setting a goal of reducing serious non-compliance by 50% by August 2011 is the equivalent of saying ‘we accept half of those farms in serious breach of their consents now continuing to pollute New Zealand’s waterways’”, said Bryce Johnson, Chief Executive New Zealand Fish & Game Council.
“Fonterra is explicitly condoning the ongoing flaunting of the law by a proportion of their farmer shareholders. This is not acceptable to most New Zealanders, and a target of 100% compliance with resource consents is surely the only acceptable goal.”
“The dairy industry has been exposed to the requirement for environmentally sustainable agriculture for many years now, and to set a target of 50% improvement over two and half years is smacks of ‘green wash’.”
“The law is the law, and farmers are not exempt from their responsibilities for 100% compliance with resource consents.”
Dunno if Alf has missed something.
He didn’t think it was Fonterrra’s job to prosecute and punish offenders.
He thought that was up to the authorities – and that Fonterra’s penalties are not being proposed as an alternative to prosecutions, but as a complementary measure.
That means a double whammy.