Congratulations to Miraka and Fonterra farmers who, we have learned, have excluded stock from 90% (1) and 95% (2) respectively of their waterways. We applaud this voluntary action by farmers, and acknowledge for that for those whose stock exclusions are permanent (eg post and wire fences), this must have come at some cost.
All dairy farmers, regardless of the co-operative they belong to, are required to exclude their livestock from waterways under the Water Accord. The first target was 90% exclusion of the length of waterways and drains present on dairy farms by 31 May 2014. The second target is 100% exclusion by 31 May 2017.
In theory these actions will lead to some improvement in water quality, and should reduce faecal pathogens, sediments and phosphates from streams running through Miraka and Fonterra farmers’ land. However we don’t know whether the farmers from other dairy companies have met their required target under the Water Accord. Nor do we know whether beef and sheep farmers in the same catchments are excluding stock, although we are aware that many around the country are doing the right thing.
Note that the Water Accord defines a significant stream as one that is deeper than 30cm and wider than 1 metre. Streams shallower or narrower than this, such as headwaters or tributaries, are also very important for water quality and biodiversity. They’re also likely to be located in steep, erosion prone gullies. While some of these waterways may not have been measured in the statistics reported above, we hope that farmers are excluding stock from these areas anyway.
Great work Fonterra and Miraka! But we’d like to hear more from other co-operatives on their progress towards stock exclusion from waterways. We look forward to having some of these farms listed on the Million Metres website for riparian funding.
2. Fonterra Annual Review 2014, p 22.
Why are faecal pathogens important?
Faecal pathogens are the bacteria and viruses (eg Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, Yersinia and toxigenic E. coli ) that can make us sick if we come into contact with the water. Between 18,000 and 34,000 people in New Zealand get sick every year from these waterborne diseases.
What do sediments do?
Sediments come from erosion, and in large quantities are bad for our watercourses, for our native fish species and for the ocean receiving environment. Sediment can decrease the capacity of our waterways, thus leading to flooding. Fine sediment can also block the gills of our native fish, and reduce visibility in water so fish cannot see to hunt. Sediment then eventually flows out to sea and can destroy shellfish beds and fish spawning grounds. Sediments get into streams when livestock erode stream banks, and floods wash in soils.
What about phosphates?
Phosphates come attached to sediment, rather than being soluble in water. It is a nutrient that can lead to eutrophication of waterways. Phosphates are kept out of water when eroded soil is kept out of the waterway via stock exclusion and vegetation.