Landcorp confirms forest-to-dairy backdown

8 March 2016

State-owned farming company Landcorp has confirmed it is backing away from a massive planned forest to dairy conversion on the Wairakei Estate in the central North Island. Almost 40 dairy farms, running 30,000 cows were planned for the land leased at the Estate, where Landcorp currently runs 13 dairy farms with 17,000 cows.

Landcorp chief executive Steven Carden said the company had decided to significantly reduce its dairying footprint at the estate. RNZ News earlier reported that Landcorp had come to the realisation that the environmental impacts of its conversions in the Waikato were simply too great.

Mr Carden said 14,500 ha of former forestry land earmarked for dairy farming at the estate would now have alternative uses, such as sheep milking, to reduce its environmental footprint.
He said this would reduce the risk of phosphate and sediment loss and bacterial contamination, and should also result in a significant reduction in nitrogen leaching.

Green Party water spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said it was a "brave step" for Landcorp.

"It would be great if the government, which has spent decades pushing these conversions, would wake up in the way that Landcorp seems to have done."

Scientists had warned the Waikato River would have suffered immensely from the increase in nitrogen leaching and pollution from the conversions. Massey University freshwater ecologist Mike Joy is a member of Landcorp's environmental reference group. He is an outspoken critic of the impact of dairy farming on waterways.

Dr Joy said the group was very much involved in the decision and it was great to see Landcorp moving away from cow dairying.

"We've been very open and there's been some robust debate. Landcorp has a pretty good team there, who were onto it ... but just needed some numbers and independent advice to really get them going in the right direction."

Landcorp's decision showed it had accepted that it was neither economically nor environmentally feasible to just keep ramping up production, he said. 

Dr Joy said anything that made money but did not have a cost on the environment would be ideal land use. "For too long the externalities of farming have been ignored. The rest of society has decided that's not acceptable."

Source: RNZ News. To read the full story >>