Call to stop dairy conversions

Dairy conversions should be stopped because of the worldwide glut of milk, says the Trans Pacific Partnership Action group.

Making a presentation at September’s Raglan Community Board meeting, TPP Action group spokesman Greg Rzesiowiecki said milk was being dumped across the world so New Zealand needed to be careful about what it did with its dairy industry.

He said state-owned Landcorp, the country’s largest corporate farmer, needed to stop converting its forestry land into dairy farms. Landcorp’s 26,000 hectare Wairakei Estate near Taupo reportedly has 17,000 cows, but plans to continue conversions so by 2021 it will have 43,000 cows on the estate.

Greg was talking about the Trans-Pacific Partership Agreement (TPPA), a US-led trade agreement involving 12 countries – including New Zealand, Australia, the United States and Japan – that has been under negotiation for the past few years. It aims to cover 40 percent of the world’s trade and has wide-ranging implications for signatories’ ability to determine their own laws and regulations.

The most recent TPPA talks in July appear to have stalled over three issues: tariffs on car parts between the US, Canada, and Japan; patents and copyrights, and; agriculture, with New Zealand being concerned about the TPPA effect on our dairy trade into North America and Japan, Greg said.

Meanwhile, concerns are growing in New Zealand about the environmental effects of dairying and the Green Party is calling for a moratorium on further dairy conversions by Landcorp.

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright says dairy farming is continuing to damage water quality, with increases from conversions exceeding predictions. In the Waikato alone, 28,400 hectares of land was converted to dairy farms between 2008 and 2012.

Global milk prices fell by 50 percent last year because of strong global production, high inventory levels in China and a supply glut caused by Russia’s ban on US and European food imports, including dairy products.

New Zealand is the world’s largest exporter of butter and whole milk powder. Our dairy cow numbers jumped in 2014 to a record 6.7 million, while sheep numbers dropped to below 30 million for the first time in more than 70 years, according to Statistics New Zealand.

Supported by many local opponents of the trade agreement, Greg suggested the Raglan Community Board recommends that the Waikato District Council encourage the government to conduct negotiations in a way that benefits the Waikato and New Zealand.

“So we’re not opposing the TPPA, just asking that it be positive,” Greg explained.
The TPP Action group suggests 12 areas in which New Zealand could improve the TPPA, including providing greater access for New Zealand agriculture exports, particularly to the US, as the TPPA did not offer us increased tariff-free access.

Allowances should be made for local government procurement processes, to safeguard local initiatives, such as Xtreme Zero Waste, and genetic-modified and organic food policies.

Other areas include not giving overseas investors or suppliers greater rights than their New Zealand counterparts, not expanding intellectual property rights, and putting in enforceable environmental clauses to prevent the reduction of environmental and biosecurity standards.

The TPPA’s 12-point policy solution has already been adopted by 12 councils, representing 60 percent of the population, and the Raglan Community Board threw its weight behind it by recommending that the WDC also adopt it.

Councillor Clint Baddeley abstained from the board’s vote, which was otherwise unanimous.

Rachel Benn

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