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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Water quality hui

I attended this meeting, or part thereof, and found it very interesting indeed. 

Southland's poor water quality will be the focus of a meeting in Invercargill today.

Forest and Bird will host a conference at the Te Tomairangi Marae highlighting Southland's water habitats.

Forest and Bird Otago-Southland field officer Sue Maturin said pollution of the region's fresh water, the decline of native fish populations and the loss of wetlands was an important issue.

Representatives from Forest and Bird, Environment Southland, dairy farming and Fish and Game would be at the conference, she said.

Massey University Centre for Freshwater Ecosystem Modelling and Management director Doctor Mike Joy will present the key note speech - New Zealand's 100% Pure Clean Green Delusion.

"Southland, like the rest of New Zealand, has serious water issues, and has some of the worst trends for increasing nutrients and polluted coastal lagoons which are a focus for Forest and Bird," Dr Joy says.

"Runoff from dairy farms and other intensive farming systems has severely impacted our rivers and lakes. In the past 20 years fertiliser use has increased 800 per cent. This has raised the chemical load on our rivers so much it is threatening our fish life."

New Zealand maintains a top 10 position for nitrate levels among OECD countries, Dr Joy said.


Pauline said...

Yeah Robert I attended Dr Joy's lecture in the evening, it was advertised via SIT environment faculty. I didn't realise there was also a conference there as well on water quality etc to attend. I am sorry I missed it.

What Dr Joy said was very very scary, especially the effect of cadmium in the earth from the fertilizers used. He said if at this is at a certain level it will not get into the water we drink, but our food as well.
Cadmium he said was harmful to humans if too much of it is taken into our

I asked him what is the answer re the pressure to produce more from
overseas due to crop loss from climate change. He said there are many other very suitable options of produce we can grow that are okay for the environment. It was he said Dairy which is the problem as One cow pollutes 11 times as much as us humans do.

What was real interesting was a comment among someone at the meeting saying when a farmer he knew choose to reduce his herd and thus did NOT need spend on buying fertilizer, his profit return was the same as before when
he had a larger herd.

Cheers Pauline

Anonymous said...

I would love to see where Dr Joy got the 800 percent lift in fertiliser use from. A 2006 statistics NZ report has it lifting 113 percent from 1986 to 2002. The figures seem grossly different. Do you recall Robert?
Mr E

robertguyton said...

Unfortunately I missed the talk, Mr E. I met Mike Joy when I attended the Environmental Defense Society's seminar series in Auckland recently. He's a smart guy.
Did you attend his Invercargill presentation, MR E? I'm wondering where you got the "800%" claim from?
I did note, earlier in the day, the high interest in cadmium as a serious problem. I've raised it on this blog before and had contributors from the farming community 'play it down'. In the background, people emailed me with stories that made the issue seems very important indeed. I inquired with the council staff and have a folio of material to read. I suspect there is a real issue to be explored there.

Anonymous said...

No I did not attend.
Where did I get the 800% claim from? Are you trying to confuse me or do you simply not read your posts?
Mr E

robertguyton said...

Sorry, Mr E. quite right! I had confused myself. I don't know where his figure comes from, but I suspect he means total fertilizer use, not per farm. It's pleasing to see the reduction in on farm fertilizer use, but the number of farms and their 'spread' into areas that were previously tussock, plantation forest etc, probably explains his claim.

Anonymous said...

I don't think so. The statistics New Zealand figure relates to total fertiliser use in NZ. Such contrasting figures bring out the sceptic in me.
Mr E

robertguyton said...

Scepticism is a very useful tool.
I wonder at this, as I don't suspect Mike of fabricating figures. Still, I can't argue it, as I don't know.

Does the Statistics NZ figure include freshly dropped manure and urine I wonder? Or is it just 'bought from a fertilizer co' fert?
I'm sure you'll know, Mr E.

robertguyton said...

And further to my 'ge' letter, have you read the cover story in the latest Straight Furrow' on claims that GM poultry manure is being spread on New Zealand pastures?
That's the next thing, I suppose :-)
I'll likely do a post on it, maybe a letter...

Anonymous said...

One step better the link
No I have not read the straight furrow.
Mr E

robertguyton said...

From the report:
"Common fertilisers used in New Zealand include lime, phosphatic fertilisers such as
Superphosphate, nitrogenous fertilisers in the form of urea, and compound fertilisers
containing more that one nutrient per granule like di-ammonium phosphate (DAP)"

so...that's a no, they are not including the rapidly increasing amounts of animal (cow especially) manure falling onto the country's pastures.
Perhaps Mike's "800%" is correct and we've underestimate him :-)

Anonymous said...

Do cows produce more manure per unit of grass than sheep? Given that the figures are 687% different and dairy farms make up 20% of agricultural land by area, dairy cows would need to produce 3400 percent more manure per hectare than sheep. Considering a dairy farm might grow about 30% more grass than sheep and makes up 20% of land area fertiliser might go up say 6% when considering manure. We are still missing a lot of percents.
I acknowledge that these are rough figures but I think it shows that manure is unlikely to be the reason for the difference.
Mr E

robertguyton said...

Cows produce far, far more urine than sheep do.
Have you factored urine into your equation?
I've read that cows urinate so prodigiously here because of the high nitrogen content of the grass. That nitrogen is way in excess of what the cow needs and ejects it from its body in its urine.

Anonymous said...

Do cows produce more urine that sheep do per unit of grass eaten?
Given that they make some of the water they eat in grass, into milk, I suspect that for much of the year, it might be less.
Your point will not, in my view, make up what appears to be a massive difference in fertiliser use claims. I think manure could make a small difference. Not a 687% difference.

Surely you can see this most basic of concepts. If you replace a sheep with a cow you are only going to change the manure output slightly per unit of grass. Dairy farms grow more grass, so this can be allowed for, but as they only make up 20% of the land area, the increase will be small relative to the figures that Dr Joy has presented.

I think there is a lot of scaremongering going on out in the industry. And I dont believe it helps anyone. All it does is create a bigger rift between farmers and towns folk and makes it harder to sit around the table and make sense of the problems. If an industry gets accused of questionable practices with questionable information, I would imagine they will defend themselves. It is human nature.
Mr E

robertguyton said...

Yeah, that whole accusation thing really irks, eh!
Many minority groups suffer from being unjustly painted by the broad brush. As a treehugger, I get that all the time. I don't whine about it though :-)
As to Mr Joy's figures, they may be wrong, I don't know, as I've said.
I don't believe that there is a lot of scaremongery going on out in the industry, as you claim. I think the general public are paying very little attention to things that they really should be.
Every time an issue is raised, I notice 'the industry' makes the same claim you are making. Most 'townies' don't know about practices on the farm. They might not be at all happy if they were to get a up-close and personal look. Maybe they'd be quite relaxed, who knows? Can't do any harm to highlight these things so that people can decide for themselves. After all, we all live in this country.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. I think most town people would be very happy if they got an up close look, especially if it was combined with an understanding.I reckon farmers are town people in gumboots. They are not aliens from a different country or a cut from a different moral cloth.
I am happy to see issues highlighted when it is in an informed manner and when it is balanced with positives. Ill informed, negative campaigning is frowned upon, at least by me.
Mr E