The Greens have just launched an e-card asking the Minister to call in the applications -Send an e-card to Nick Smith, Minister for the Environment: tell him to stop factory farming in the MacKenzie Country . Scoll down to our links and hit Greens E card and then pass on to your friends.
What is the future for this national treasure? Well, the Government has so far failed to define a coherent vision for the Mackenzie Country in spite of its importance to our tourism sector. The local councils have weak plans and ad hoc decision-making is the norm. The hearing process under the RMA is hugely complex and gets bogged down in detail.
What would help is for the Government to step in and provide some much-needed leadership and direction. It should put in place a National Environmental Standard protecting native grasslands and landscapes in the Mackenzie Basin. Then it should fund an expansive programme to manage pests and weeds. It’s that simple, says Gary Taylor of the Environmental Defence Society. (See NZ Herald article Saving Paradise: The story of the Mackenzie Country).
14 January 2010
Environment Commissioner urges Minister to call in Mackenzie Basin dairying consents
“The risk to the water quality of the area is of such significance, that the Minister for the Environment should call in these large-scale, dairy operations for consideration,” said Dr Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment today.
The Commissioner sent a letter to the Minister for the Environment yesterday asking him to call in the resource consent applications for effluent and air discharges, as requested recently by Environment Canterbury.
“I am particularly concerned about the effect of these dairying operations on the water quality of the Ohau and Ahuriri catchments,” she said. “The combined effluent of these operations would be similar in quantity to a city the size of Christchurch being located in the Mackenzie Basin.”
A recent report from NIWA suggests that if the amount of nutrients entering Lake Benmore was to substantially increase, then the water quality of the lake and lower Waitaki River would be likely to seriously deteriorate.
“Such a result would be highly undesirable – especially as this region is popular for tourism and recreation,” Dr Wright stated. “In addition, Meridian has submitted evidence that there may also be implications for the ability of the Waitaki Power Scheme to generate carbon-free electricity.“
In her report, Change in the high country: Environmental stewardship and tenure review, the Commissioner recommended that the Minister should call in development applications that are proposals of national significance due to their potential for significant adverse effects on lakes or outstanding landscapes in the high country.
“These proposed dairy farms are just the kind of development I envisaged when making my recommendation,” said Dr Wright.
Cubicle dairy farms’ fate may lie with Government call-ins
By PAUL GORMAN – The Press
Last updated 05:00 07/01/2010
The fate of controversial Mackenzie Basin dairy farms with cubicles for up to 18,000 cows could end up in the Government’s hands.
Environment Canterbury (ECan) has written to the Government asking it whether “calling in” the applications might be possible, given their potential national impact.
The Government will need to act quickly if it is to follow ECan’s advice, with a decision on two call-ins needed by January 15 and a ruling on the third needed a week later.
Call-ins enable the Government to make a decision, bypassing the lengthy Environment Court process.
A Government spokesman said yesterday that Environment Minister Nick Smith had not yet seen the December 23 letter, written to Smith by ECan chief executive Bryan Jenkins.
The three-page letter has come to light by chance, although technically it is in the public arena.
Christchurch Central MP Brendon Burns, Labour’s water spokesman, came across it on Tuesday on a visit to ECan to inspect the file of submissions on the consent applications.
Three companies – Southdown Holdings, Five Rivers and Williamson Holdings – want to build 16 dairy farms where cows would live in “cubicle” stables most of the time.
Opponents, including the Green Party, say the plan will tarnish New Zealand’s environmental reputation.
Prime Minister John Key has told Parliament that the Government has sought urgent advice on factory dairy farming.
Under the plans, cows will be confined in cubicle stables 24 hours a day from March to October, and allowed outside for 12 hours a day from November to February.
ECan has received more than 3000 submissions from around the world on two of the companies’ consent applications to store and discharge effluent, excavate land and discharge contaminants to air.
Submissions close on the Williamson Holdings application on January 15.
In the letter to Smith, Jenkins said the submissions had not yet been analysed in detail.
A sample of about 10 per cent showed three-quarters raised issues relating to animal welfare.
Jenkins said that as a result of media and public discussion outside the hearings process, he had sought legal advice on whether animal welfare issues could be considered by the council’s commissioners.
“The advice we have received is that the effect of factory dairy farming on the welfare of the dairy cattle is not an `effect’ of the activity when the application is for a discharge permit,” he said.
“Issues in terms of animal welfare are more appropriately addressed via the Animal Welfare Act 1999.”
The potential effect on the country’s overseas image could fall within the definition of “effect” in the Resource Management Act, but it was “unlikely any regional council as a consent authority can place significant weight on this issue”.
Jenkins said his advice was that animal welfare could not be grounds for a call-in, which would bypass the Environment Court, but he wanted to know if the Ministry for the Environment shared that view.