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Voting for our lives: protecting the environment from the late capitalism death cult

Written By: - Date published: 9:59 am, September 5th, 2022 - 86 comments
Categories: climate change, Conservation, farming, sustainability - Tags: , , , ,

The biggest downside of social media for me is the constant stream of evidence that the late capitalism death cult is still empowered to do maximum harm.

This morning it’s the news that Environment Southland approved an intensive industrial dairy farm on the banks of the upper Waiau, the river the feeds from Lake Te Anau into Lake Manapouri.

Environment Southland issued resource consent to discharge agricultural effluent to land from 1600 cows; to use land to build and use an effluent storage pond; and to use land for the wintering barns without public notification in May last year.

Emeritus Prof Sir Alan Mark, botanist and environmentalist, a founding member of the Save Manapouri campaign in the 1960s and 70s and long time member of the Guardian of the Lakes, is quoted in the piece about the issues with the geography and free draining nature of the land.

“This is a quite unacceptable situation which should have at least resulted in a notified application, open for submissions.”

Environment Southland moved the Te Anau sewage facility from the lower Upukerora River outlet leading into Lake Te Anau about 19km to land by the Manapouri-Te Anau Airport because of effluent leakage concerns, Sir Alan said.

He was “nonplussed” the council would not act to prevent effluent from 1600 cows as this seemed at odds with its previous approach, he said.

There is nothing that the death cult won’t try and steal or extract or pollute in the name of profit. By death cult I mean the people actively working against climate action, sustainability and resiliency, and regenerative landcare.

I don’t mean farmers as a class, there are plenty of good farmers out there. I mean Federated Farmers, the business people, banks and farm advisors pushing these projects.

We don’t need more dairy farms. We do need more native restoration, and regenerative landcare if we are to survive the difficult future the planet is facing.

Intensive farming harms soil, waterways, biodiversity and animals. When you start enclosing large numbers of animals in buildings or feedlots you are factory farming. Factory farming is cruel, and it creates disease that then means more antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals. It creates excess pollution that the land cannot mitigate.

Federated Farmers did some half hearted attempt at greenwashing,

“It is not a dairy farm, it is a grazing block that grazes dairy cows for 70 days a year, and putting them in a barn will mitigate all risks for the environment, and run off and sediment loss and nutrient loss into the waterways.

Mitigate all risks? That’s the sound of a dairy herd flying past.

“The barns are designed to un-intensify it and strategically place nutrients back on to the land at the best suitable times.”

Yeah, right. That’s the only Tui in sight.

Maybe their comparison is with the Southland mud farms? These are pregnant cows,

Or the Canterbury feedlots?

This is the standard being set, and it’s being used to drag the Overton Window of what is acceptable towards degeneration.

But we can do so much better. Regenerative agriculture by definition regenerates land: soil, biodiversity, water.

This is what regenerative, resilient and sustainable farming looks like in New Zealand,

So when Federated Farmers rep says,

…opposition to the dairy block was based on emotion, not reality.

“They’re not going to be happy until such time as farming practices are gone, which in a country that relies on agriculture, is pretty naive.”

He’s either extremely ignorant or a paid up member of the death cult who doesn’t care about climate, the environment or animal welfare. The thing about emotion is that people that love the land will care for it. People that are devoid of that emotional connection won’t.

There’s not a lot we can do at the moment about Federated Farmers, or overly wealthy people doing stupid shit to the environment. But we can empower people in city, district and regional councils who will push back, and work to stop or lessen these kinds of developments.

I’m not writing a long, well-researched post on this. I’m pulling on my experience over a long time of environmental issues, and pointing to the fundamental problem here, that of world view. I’m not willing to have a debate about whether this project is ok or not, because the basic premise of it is inherently harmful to the environment. You cannot do industrial dairying and prevent climate catrastrophe.

Local body elections run from 16 September to 8 October, by postal voting (you can also drop your papers into your local council). Enroll now (same link). Let’s stop giving our power away and do the mahi over the next 5 weeks to support and elect the people we really want running the show. A big turnout from progressives will make a difference.

86 comments on “Voting for our lives: protecting the environment from the late capitalism death cult ”

  1. Ad 1

    Labour and Greens are reasonably united for local elections in Auckland, with minor exceptions.

    Western Southland may be on a different gunracked planet, but the elections are here.

    A smart Te Anau leader would ask how the town will recover when you can smell cowshit from the Kepler.

    The tourism v dairy contest needs to be brought to a head: this is as good a time and place as any.

    • weka 1.1

      Yep. Wondering what you can see from the Kepler too.

      From the ODT link,

      The Southland District Council has since publicly notified the next step for the dairy operation as it seeks consents related to building its wintering barns.

      A hearing for that application has been scheduled for September 29 in Te Anau.

      Te Anau tourism operator Martin Sliva said about 30 concerned Te Anau residents and supporters met after a pre-hearing meeting and asked for the initial hearing date of September 21 to be postponed, as reported by the Otago Daily Times last week.

    • Robert Guyton 1.2

      Two candidates standing; one a local business owner, the other an ex-president of Federated Farmers.

      The campaign is becoming one to watch!

  2. Achieving change in the local Authorities is a good idea. Perhaps we also need a well resourced 'Save the land' campaign similar to the Save Manapouri campaign.

    So working from within and without.

    I would be very skeptical though of running the tourist card. Both can be unsustainable and I would rather ran a campaign on landuse, over use, water quality, animal health etc ie ecological grounds.

    So the people voting for local authorities in Western Southland have two sorts of 'nutters' to be wary of. (anti vax and over use proponents…..what an alliance) Groundswill is already there for them – working together

    ETA I can never watch the regen ag doco too many times and, yes, we are up for the annual ‘who has the best mud farm to calve on’ competition. They’ve been having very strong winds down there recently and without a skerrick of shelter left (that went long ago) the lives of these animals is miserable.

  3. roy cartland 3

    This is the golden statement of the post for me:

    We don’t need more dairy farms.

    But in the long run, it's all of us that will have to carry the cost of their consequences. Don't need them; arguably most don't want them, what the hell are they for then?

    • Shanreagh 3.1

      Don't need them; arguably most don't want them, what the hell are they for then?


      Money, money money ………

    • weka 3.2

      underlying that sentence was the idea that industrial dairying pays for our lifestyles. But there's still a limit right? Do we need increasing numbers of industrial dairying? What happens if we work in transitioning existing farms and not increasing? And looking at other ways of paying for a certain standard of living. The whole economic argument seems quite lazy and superficial to me.

      • roy cartland 3.2.1

        Exactly right – is there any good argument left? "Because that's what we've always done"? "We're altruistically feeding the world"? "Because the economy"? All pretty weak, and as you say, lazy.

        Could it be just that it's 'uncool'? We've invested this much already, etc?

      • Robert Guyton 3.2.2

        That is indeed the argument that has to be had though, weka. The belief is buried deep in the hearts of, well, you know where it's buried. Until it's dislodged, dissolved from there, we will be chasing our tails. That is, till it all crashes down around us.

        • Ad

          If you elected people aren't going to have the economic development argument about Southland now – when you have had multiple threats to its economic wellbeing for a decade – when exactly do you think you'll get around to it?

          Of course you could just keep taking it one dairy consent at a time …

          …to which I would refer you to the lack of economic leadership causing your pest overruns, water degradation, nearly-vanished wetlands, low wage commodity export production, cheap imported labour, treeless barren fields, extinct wildlife, declining shellfish industries, declining towns, rapidly ageing and declining populations, declining tertiary education and qualifications, declining equality and asset ownership, agri-corporate capture, and just a very few little instances of bold entrepeneurship despite all the lack of support local leadership could provide.

          • Robert Guyton

            You paint such a rosy picture, Ad!

            The "economic development argument" is an on-going one, both in the council chamber and amongst the staff. A great deal of assessment work has already been done. The visionary stuff comes hard to conservative councillors, especially those who's personal economic well-being is tied to BAU. There are some councillors though, who constantly broadcast their better-way visions to council at meetings and workshops, and behind the scene with other inter-councillor communications. Recent moves toward co-governance along with the tangible effects of climate change and Government requirements, have sped up the process; not to the extent I would like, but many times faster than it operated when I first entered the fray, 12 years ago.

  4. PsyclingLeft.Always 4

    I’m not writing a long, well-researched post on this

    I truly think you are cogently speaking from a very well informed Heart.

    And that is enough. Lets have more of this : )

    • Patricia Bremner 4.1

      I agree. We need the feelings raised which fought Manapouri. A country wide petition?

  5. roy cartland 5

    I know I always bang the Monbiot drum, here's his interview with Kim Hill (sorry if it's been posted already).

    Precision fermentation – honestly it can't be more gross than hacking bacteria-ridden flesh off an animal's corpse, and drinking their excretions (and yes, I do both of those, hypocritically).

  6. Ad 6

    Imagine trying to consent this with 3 Waters governance in place.

    • Robert Guyton 6.1

      What do you mean, Ad?

      • Ad 6.1.1

        The South Island co-governance entity will likely:

        1. Oppose in the Court any major development stormwater effects
        2. Alert the iwi at both regulatory and corporate levels
        3. Gather evidence, should it ever be approved, to go straight to the national water quality regulator

        We should expect an army of 3-Water entity drones regulating and shaming the fuck out of this kind of agricultural development.

        • weka

          so the consent application would still go to ES and when they approved it, the SI 3W entity would take ES to court?

          (or eventually ES would preempt this by declining such applications).

          Do you think Ngāi Tahu would oppose or support this particular development?

          Gather evidence of water quality impacts and then act? My guess (on the little info in the ODT piece) is that it will take some time for the water issues to become apparent. Years. Then years to clean it up again.

          • Ad

            No one yet knows how the new political economy of water will play out.

            We do know that they will be independent of government and of regulators, and they will be exceedingly powerful.

            My bet is the Kaitiaki side of Ngai Tahu would kick ass.

          • Shanreagh

            Yes we still deal with leachate leaks from old landfills 40 or so years on here in Wellington. As late as the mid 2000-2010 Govt depts/local authorities were still mapping, assessing and mitigating the farmer dumps/gutholes in rural properties, old farm airfields, disused semi induustrial buildings in rural areas.

            As Dr Mark says the land on which the operation is proposed is free flowing loose gravels and once away still will just trickle and trickle. Already when you drive past these huge irrigators you can see paddocks that are past their ability to accept any more 'fluid'.

            Also with all those cows farting……what extraction and mitigation systems will they use? hey perhaps just ventilate a couple of times a day. Can they use the by products? What about emissions?

            • Poission

              um its built on an old airfield.

              • Shanreagh


                I was making the proposition that noone has invented a fail safe leak proof way to keep this effluent forever contained.

                My comment about airfields was about toxic dumps including those semi industrial super bin arrangements at old rural airfields. These have had to be mapped and mitigated.

                Are you saying this is going to be built on an existing tarmac?

                Under the tarmac are these loose gravels that would allow effluent to melt away quickly.

                • Poission

                  On the planning maps that RG provided link it shows the old airfield in the photos,which was replaced by grass,and gravel,and a site for the barns.

                • Robert Guyton

                  Keeping effluent "forever contained" doesn't bear thinking about; there's nothing attractive in that proposal.

                  Effluent is best applied to soil, where the organisms and plants therein, convert it all to soil to be uptake into plants. Effluent management, bovine, ovine, human etc. should be a dynamic process that follows natural guidelines and has beneficial effects only, upon the environment.

                  That's what we should be working towards. If an industry can't comply, it shouldn't be allowed to exist – I'm looking at you, cities! 🙂

                  • Shanreagh

                    When I was talking about forever contianed I was meaning both before and after being spread. Do we have evidence that the spread is taken up and dealt with no residue percolating down?

                    Or do we wait until the players are long gone and find that the stuff has finally reached where it shouldn't be.

                    To me it is just development gone mad. That we extract until we cannot do any more. By 'extracting' I mean load the land above its capacity.

                    Does this mean that the animal industrial warehouse, I'm not using the benign word 'barn', will be used all year? is it a cost plus so we have 1600 in the warehouse and then others running on the rest of the property when conditions are suitable?

                    • Robert Guyton

                      I understand what you are saying. A dairy farm attempts to create a closed system, but that can't be done. The trade off is with "economic necessity" and the wider environment. Can't win that game. Even a forest is not closed. Effects are not usually containable. The best case then, is diminimis – all-but-no harm. That's the aim, we are well off that mark. The council doesn't just "consent and pray" – we rely on our science to accurately predict. The only other way would be, ban! Don't consent! The farming community, Central Government et al would soon rid themselves of such a council 🙂 Changes are occurring, for the "better", but generally within the paradigm "agriculture". That has to go entirely, imo. There are better ways. Did you listen to George Monbiot's interview with Kim Hill? He knows what's needed.

            • Robert Guyton

              EPSir Mark is correct.

              However, in this instance, the leakage is already happening, has happened for some time now and will be greatly improved as the result of barning the cows.

              Hence the granting of the consent by ES, imo.

    • weka 6.2

      what would 3 Waters governance being doing specifically?

  7. PsyclingLeft.Always 7

    An earlier…very similar comment from (well) Fed Farmer rep Jolly ol' Jason re Irrigation.

    Southland farmer Jason Herrick, who is also the head of Federated Farmers sharemilker section in the province, said the direction halting irrigation was ill thought out and a reaction to public sentiment rather than science.


    Well JASON…even if the Science was staring you in the eyeballs..(and it is ) you would deny, deny, deny.


  8. Robert Guyton 8

    This is an interesting post from my point of view, weka 🙂

    My personal views about conventional dairy farming are well known; I have spoken loudly on the issue in public, at meetings and through the Southland Times letters to the editor section, repeatedly, over the past 12 years and am not regarded as the dairyman's friend 🙂

    However, to the details of this particular situation; there is much muddying of the waters 🙂

    The news media to date has not been accurate, missing important details. I believe this is about to be rectified.

    TS readers might be interested to know that the Councillor representing the Te Anau constituency, is a dairy farmer and ex-President of Federated Farmers, which, as scandalous as that may sound 🙂 is of little bearing to the issue.

    Like many blood-pressure-raising issues, this one is complex. The council on which I sit has acted in accordance, imo, with their/our obligations to the RMA, which is what Regional Councils are all about (Labour's proposed changes to the RMA are a whole other discussion).

    You quoted the Feds:

    “It is not a dairy farm, it is a grazing block that grazes dairy cows for 70 days a year, and putting them in a barn will mitigate all risks for the environment, and run off and sediment loss and nutrient loss into the waterways."

    I am also not regarded as a friend of the Feds, but those statements seem accurate enough to me. The farm has had cows on it for some time now, roaming "freely", that is, without the shelter and additional management opportunities a barn offers. Barns do improve environmental outcomes. Cows are not tromping about on the soil when it's soggy. Their manure isn't being washed into waterways by heavy rain. Application times can be managed when effluent is stored.

    Remember, there were already cows there before this. This new development should be an improvement on what exists presently, from an environmental perspective.

    None of this matters much, of course, if you find dairy farming unpalatable but it's important, when citing a certain example, to look at the facts of the matter and the parameters that exist in law.

    As to the wider picture; George Monbiot's interview with Kim Hill not withstanding and the success and progress Regenerative agriculture seems to be enjoying right now, from my point of view there is a lot of deck-chair re-arranging going on at present, and that's better than nothing, if it's the preluded to transformation, but frustrating for someone like me who can see that the answer lies with forest-gardens from horizon to horizon 🙂

    • bwaghorn 8.1

      My gut instinct is that yip, if you can house cows when it's wet then it's a environmental good , so unless it's drastically increasing cow numbers in the area it is a win.

    • weka 8.2

      TS readers might be interested to know that the Councillor representing the Te Anau constituency, is a dairy farmer and ex-President of Federated Farmers, which, as scandalous as that may sound…

      who is that?

      The council on which I sit has acted in accordance, imo, with their/our obligations to the RMA, which is what Regional Councils are all about (Labour's proposed changes to the RMA are a whole other discussion).

      so says every council every time it does something people don't like 😉 It doesn't tell us much here, except maybe implies that you are ok with the decision?

      The farm has had cows on it for some time now, roaming "freely", that is, without the shelter and additional management opportunities a barn offers. Barns do improve environmental outcomes. Cows are not tromping about on the soil when it's soggy. Their manure isn't being washed into waterways by heavy rain. Application times can be managed when effluent is stored.

      Remember, there were already cows there before this. This new development should be an improvement on what exists presently, from an environmental perspective.

      I didn't know it was an existing DF (my bad). And I agree that shelter for farm animals matters a great deal. That doesn't make this model a good thing when the could instead have shifted to a regenerative model.

      Moving in the right direction is usually good. Not always though, depends on how it is done. Which I don't have the details for and as I said in the post I wasn't going to spend a lot of time researching what is fundamentally a flawed approach. I see the banks of the upper Waiau clothed in wetlands and forest. Happy to then have forest gardens or agro forestry between that and the inward hills.

      None of this matters much, of course, if you find dairy farming unpalatable but it's important, when citing a certain example, to look at the facts of the matter and the parameters that exist in law.

      Did ES have the option to decline the consent?

      • Robert Guyton 8.2.1
        1. Allan Baird

        2. I believe the claim to be true. I'm not always "okay" with council decisions, but having done all I can to represent my views and those I represent, I concur to what the council decides upon, as is proper (and required).

        3. It is not a dairy farm. Classification is significant in a number of ways.

        4. I don't believe there was an option to decline the consent. Some matters have to be dealt with according to rules that allow activities automatically. How'd you like to be an environmentally-focussed regional councillor, weka? 🙂

        • weka
          1. thanks

          2. I wasn't challenging your claim as untruthful but rather pointing out it doesn't tell us a huge amount

          3. would you mind explaining this in simple terms. It affects how an application is considered?

          4. This seems a critical piece of information. Will it be different for SDC?

          4. I wouldn't. You couldn't pay me enough for that particular challenge. Some people seem to do well at it though 😀

          • Robert Guyton

            Some consents are granted automatically, providing the meet criteria.

            Some require certain conditions to be met and evidence that they have been.

            Some require public notification and the opportunity for the public etc. to test the criteria and the consent-seekers claims.

            Some are not possible to acquire, under any circumstances.

          • Robert Guyton

            A dairy shed adds environmental impacts to a site because they use large volumes of water at wash down. This block doesn't have a milking shed.

    • Ad 8.3

      Remember, there were already cows there before this.

      Were there 1600 cows already there?

      There were rivers and forests before that.

      It should amaze us that it takes a 90 year old activist to tell you how dumb further dairy intensification is here.

      • bwaghorn 8.3.1

        Yeah but, you think it's a better option to have it pristine so rich people can jet in to look at it, !!!

        • weka

          I hate tourism and I still think rich tourists are a better option than industrial dairy.

          Lucky those aren't the only choices eh.

          • bwaghorn

            It may have escaped yours and ads attention but veiws don't feed the 8 billion

            • Shanreagh

              At some of the prices being charged these days for our primary produce it is not feeding as many of our population as it could.

              Perhaps though it is better to have industrial dairy and then use the overseas funds to import tonnes of 10min or 1min noodles?

              I don't think so.

              Something has gone wrong when we are not able to feed our people other than with reliance on 'crxp' from the dollars of our climate and agricultural systems.

              Something is missing


              1. we are either producing too much
              2. producing stuff that is too expensive
              3. not looking after our own first

              All of these points will have effects on other things eg wages, landuse deficits etc. We could put a spoke in some where to stop this ever increasing cost plus chasing the mighty dollar stuff. As we know through experience there is no 'trickle down'……I was around when we ran that experiment and I am still waiting.

              I do know that we had the ability to help during Covid and this was achieved, generally fairly and evenly, across our producers……some how other than in times of crisis it does not seem to make the whole country wealthier.

            • Ad

              New Zealand is responsible for its 5 million citizens, which is pays for in overseas customers.

              For about a decade more people in Te Anau got their incomes and wealth raised through tourism than would ever have occurred through dairy production in a century.

              • Poission

                The only time we had a current account surplus in the last 40 years was when there was no Tourism. ie the June 20 quarter.The rest of the time it is debt funded and at new records now 8.5 billion.All to be funded by 5-6% sovereign debt.

              • Shanreagh

                Both examples below pre Covid

                One of my Southland based nieces and a couple of her friends were able to make a good contribution to their ongoing uni costs by working in the tourism industry in Te Anau in the summer break. Another has/had regular summer work in Invercargill working for the large laundry complex that works to do laundry for the motels/hotels in Te Anau

            • weka

              we don't need another dairy farm to do that either. Humans waste 30% of annual food globally. No need to fuck NZ's environment further by chasing that hoary old chestnut. Grow chestnuts instead!

        • Ad

          Anyone should be able to look at it and see that it's good. No matter who they are.

          We ought to be a great example to the world, not a gross polluter of our waterways.

          Elections are the only place we get to contest damage like this and make real change.

          • Robert Guyton

            "Elections are the only place we get to contest damage like this and make real change."

            Which elections?

            Local Body elections will, perhaps, replace particular councillors with … some other councillors. If you are drawing from the rural sector, chances are, you'll elect a farmer.

            Central Government elections can install a proactive government that's willing to tackle the serious issues, such as water quality. I believe we have such a government at present. Oh, that they were perfect!

      • Robert Guyton 8.3.2

        I don't think the consent asked for an increase in stocking rate over what was in the previous consent.

        It didn't take the Emeritus Professor to tell us about dairy intensification; the pit-falls of that are well know by all in council. Are you certain that the ES consent granted intensification, rather than mitigation (through the use of barns)?

  9. Thank you Robert Guyton.

    There is mention of the fact that

    “It is not a dairy farm, it is a grazing block that grazes dairy cows for 70 days a year, and putting them in a barn will mitigate all risks for the environment, and run off and sediment loss and nutrient loss into the waterways."

    The proposal is for

    Environment Southland issued resource consent to discharge agricultural effluent to land from 1600 cows; to use land to build and use an effluent storage pond; and to use land for the wintering barns without public notification in May last year.

    This seems to translate a dairy grazing run-off landuse that lasts for 70 days to an all year round operation dealing with 1600 cows.

    The scale seems to suggest that this is not like for like ……

    Or does the current use involve 1600 cows over two months?

    Of course if we are looking at an all round facility and not an all grass system supplemented by baleage or winter feed then are we not also looking at increased importation of palm oil products and other world-extracted unsustainable products?

    What kind of effluent treatment is being proposed?

    Are we going to see the world's first perfect effluent treatment set-up? I don't think so? Presumably this is why they are proposing the bund system. So the out flow is trapped. What then? Is it pumped out? or does it slowly sink down on these loose free flowing soils and then what? Does it work it's way slowly down to the lake to arrive there unexpectedly in 30 years time? Leachates from land fills closed 40 years ago in Wellington are still making their way out, at times, into the sea and our marine Reserve system. Farm dumps are being mapped and mitigated by the taxpayers or ratepayers . Of course when 'they' become aware of them work is done to stop or mitigate.

    Imagine in 40 years time……the proponents will have made their money and gone and left no mitigation fund. Jase will be on his way to extract the guts out of something else and be revered as a far-sighted industry leader.

    As an example of the once over lightly of the landscape plan as analysed by the Mike Moore, the planner employed to peer review it by SDC, the proposal is for the buildings to be silver grey on the basis that the existing farm buildings are silver grey. No thought given as to whether, if we were starting again down in the Te Anau basin, would we have the farm buildings silver grey? Of course we would not. We'd want something that blended more…..He has suggested that the colour of the buildings be matched to tone with the back drop of the forests.

    If we are to have this kind of building what happens to the roof run off? How is the operation powered? Is solar energy being used as much as it can. So if reluctantly the proposal goes ahead can the community get more bangs for its buck.

    Robert thank you for the info. To me if there are problems with run-off and stock loadings on pastures with the existing stocking it says to me that this is the wrong type of land use or the wrong intensity. I would be removing stock and increasing margin and riparian planting and minimising stocking times/numbers ……..

    As Weka says this kind of thinking

    This is the standard being set, and it’s being used to drag the Overton Window of what is acceptable towards degeneration. .

    It is also an example of TINA (there is no alternative) thinking and where options have not included the status quo or the 'status quo minus' if I can set up a new category.

    Sounds like I should put in a submission doesn't it?

    Oh dear I cannot, what a surprise it is an unnotified application.

    PS We learn all the time……I remember when wind turbines were being introduced that the proponents poo- pooed the concept of human unease at catching glimpses of something out of the corner of one’s eyes (from far away away from the actual structure) or of the subliminal effects of close planted deciduous shelter belts that shaded across the roads.
    Like Weka I am not going to fossick through material to find refs but I do recall that driving through the long stick like shadows of shelterbelts was enough to trigger epilepsy in some folks.

  10. Wading in from an animal welfare perspective – barns can be ok; and they can be awful. So not a panacea by any means.

    The ability to express normal behaviours (grazing; foraging; exploration; engage in social behaviour (grooming); play) are important welfare indicators for cattle – arguably not all are able to be expressed in a barn. Raises big questions about the long term use of such technologies.

    Consider how many pigs and chickens are kept … and the move AWAY from such husbandry operations because of the impacts on welfare. Argue though the the dairy industry might, it’s not a uncomplicated conversation not simple solution.

    Regen (meaning low-no artificial inputs) is dictated to by land use capability. That’s the only meaningful, defining metric – are we operating inside te Taiao’s limits? Barns indicate the answer is no – at least, not in a genuine way

    Lots of the fall out (ie everything that exceeds it) from te Taiao’s limit being respected will mean big changes in land use. This will inevitably come anyway as cheap energy becomes a thing of the past.

    And in my opinion, ongoing use of animals like days of old – they give milk, meat, fibre and trample and fertilise – will be necessary for survival.

    That’s the long game. PF might be a sci-fix in the short term only. It requires energy in vat construction; manufacture; distribution – that’s energy that we aren’t going to have in the long term.

    (I may have digressed from AW comment – but it’s all interconnected).

    • weka 11.1

      thanks Helen, this is close to my thinking.

      are we operating inside te Taiao’s limits

      The most pertinent question (followed by are we contributing to te Taiao's wellbeing and would we recognise it if we werent?).

      • Robert Guyton 11.1.1

        weka – have you listened to the Kim Hill/George Monbiot interview?

        It's a cracker!

        It would make a great post. Monbiot is relentless in his search for a way through the whole mess. He delivers his message very well. Hill wasn't quite up to the mark, but it's not he specialist field. Monbiot was superb. There are aspects of what he's saying, particularly the criticism aimed at New Zealand and New Zealanders; that an appalling percentage of our land has been taken by the agriculturalists at the expense of the "wild" and ultimately, our survival, and that our diets, if copied by all humans, would require and entire second planet to achieve! This is ugly news. We must face up to it. Monbiot recommends strongly the value and necessity of returning a high percentage of farmland to forest; managed and food-producing still, but in "style", wild. I concur with his views.

        • weka

          I haven't listened to it and have to admit I'm put off by his ideas that humans should be vegan and farming for that. Maybe he is saying it differently now, but in the past it sounded like shifting from animals to cropping and the mainstream will just fuck that up as well. Is he talking about regenerative as well as rewilding?

          Agree with all you have just said, including the usefulness of people critiquing NZ.

    • Robert Guyton 11.2

      "… are we operating inside te Taiao’s limits? Barns indicate the answer is no – at least, not in a genuine way…"

      I ask the same question about houses.

  11. Stuart Munro 12

    There are many issues to consider in imposing regulations, particularly in an industry that once had practically free rein without especially serious negative effects, albeit dairy herds were much smaller then.

    Regenerative agriculture is probably not a plausible regulatory goal. It asks too much, for the moment, of a community that does not value environment as it might, and the question of how regenerative would need to be settled, to the extent that change was to impact the bottom line.

    Lord Aitken found that The rule that you are to love your neighbour may be biblical, but the law asks for something less, that you must not injure your neighbour.

    A parallel for agriculture regulation might be that you are not obliged to improve the environment, but you may not degrade it. The fairness is inarguable, and the many techniques of mitigation from riparian planting to mixed pastures, lower stocking rates, agroforestry and so forth suddenly become ways to offset the less desirable byproducts of any production choices – the kind of thing dairy farmers routinely do already so as to pay less tax on income than any comparable sector except real estate.

  12. A parallel for agriculture regulation might be that you are not obliged to improve the environment, but you may not degrade it. The fairness is inarguable, and the many techniques of mitigation from riparian planting to mixed pastures, lower stocking rates, agroforestry and so forth suddenly become ways to offset the less desirable byproducts of any production choices – the kind of thing dairy farmers routinely do already so as to pay less tax on income than any comparable sector except real estate.

    I agree wih this and the expectation that one of the ways to minimise 'less desirable by products' would be lower stocking rates.

    I believe that this choice not to look at lessening stocking is to shift the Overton window (as Weka has said) and work on public opinion and views by countenancing an expectation that we must forever be allowing or expecting higher or status quo stocking rates rather than by asking the rather child-like or 'emperors has no clothes' question

    'why don't you reduce the number of stock or shorten the time they are there?'

    If you cannot do this

    'why are you still expecting/wanting to farm as you are on this property?'

    PS It does not surprise me that Ngai Tahu had no objection.

  13. DB Brown 14

    A few (2013) thoughts on the subject.

    From Trash to Treasure: Harvesting nutrient streams to turn pollution into production.

    Fresh water is an essential resource. All New Zealanders are stakeholders impacted to some extent by the degradation of this resource. The dairy industries contribution to surface and groundwater pollution is significant (Wilcock et al., 1999). Pollutants include phosphorus, nitrogen, pathogens, heavy metals, pesticides, sediment and salts (Parris, 2011). Legislation to protect water resources began with the Resource Management Act (RMA, 1991). The RMA’s enactment appeared poorly enforced, and many instances of public outcry over breaches of guidelines were outlined in a report from the NZ Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) (Williams, 2004). Industry was not blind to this: Just prior to the PCE report the Clean Streams Accord (CSA), an agreement between industry and government bodies, was created (Fonterra et al., 2003). Despite public outcry, damning reports and public relations exercises, little changed. The dairy industry continued to grow in land area, stocking rates and production per unit of land (Livestock Improvement Corporation, 2005). Recently the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS, 2011), was implemented. Objectives of the NPS are to: safeguard water’s ecosystem services and associated ecosystems and organisms within them; protect the quality of water bodies and wetlands; and improve the quality of degraded water bodies. These objectives require limiting both water usage and discharges into water bodies.

    This essay will outline a ‘whole farm’ concept for utilising nutrient sources with the goals of simultaneously providing economic and environmental benefits to the farm, while reducing nutrient discharge into adjacent water bodies. The combination of ecology and technology, as outlined herein, utilises upstream nutrient sources for downstream production to deliver a highly productive yet sustainable means of farming in a New Zealand context. Describing the complexities of all aspects of the system is beyond the scope of this work, but efforts will be made to outline the processes involved. Some new thinking on dealing with dairy effluent in a New Zealand context is included, ideas of which have been utilised in other geographical and industrial contexts, namely: the use of poultry to accelerate decomposition of cow pats, the use of duckweed culture to polish biodigester liquid effluent, inducing voiding of cattle in specific sites, identification of high (cattle) usage sites for drainage leading to more efficient collection of effluent product, and select functional plant species for shelter belts and wetland riparian edges.

    The majority of dairy runoff (including solid and liquid portions of effluent, and fertiliser) is a non-point or diffuse source of pollution that works its way through the land making it difficult to monitor and control (Roygard et al, 2012; Gillingham et al., 2009). Efforts have been made to alleviate runoff with guidelines for nutrient application. Best practise guidelines and limits for fertiliser must meet the goals of maintaining both economic and environmental integrity of the farm (Monaghan et al., 2008; Barak & Raban, 2007; Drummond, 2007). Likewise effluent re-spreading limits and guidelines have been put into place including maximum allowable coverage, standoff periods for herds, and weather guidelines to minimise diffusion into water bodies (Longhurst et al., 2000). Soil type, drainage, fertiliser type, weather regimes, and herd, tillage and pasture management practises all contribute to/alleviate the volume of runoff from dairy pastures. Best practise is on a case by case basis. Assuming best practise is used, to further reduce the effects of runoff from farms one must target where and when these nutrients are being concentrated. Through the effective capture/processing of effluent one might better utilise the nutrient potential while indirectly reducing fertiliser use.

    Cattle defecate approximately 12 times a day (Miner et al, 1992) and spend the majority of their day on New Zealand farms in pastures. Seasonally, the autumn-winter period produces the most pollution partially due to lower soil temperature-correlated slowing of microbial processes for the breakdown/uptake of nutrients (Waldrop & Firestone, 2006). It is worth noting that higher soil temperatures and deeper root depths are both correlated with higher soil organic matter (Kluge et al, 2012; Li et al, 2011). Thus fertiliser practises utilising organic substrates could lead to better overall processing of nutrient loads with an extended rhizosphere and increased soil respiration. Cooler seasons in New Zealand bring increased precipitation and subsequent increased diffusion of pollutants through the land (Choudhary et al, 2002). de Klein et al (2006) showed reduction in autumn-winter seasons nitrate leaching of 40% though the practises of restricted autumnal grazing and wintering pads. This practise is recommended. Sources of supplementary feedstock for these practises are hay, silage, and functional shelter belts and duckweed culture as will be outlined here.

    Sites of increased aggregation of cattle include milking sheds, water troughs, raceways and wintering pads. These sites are targets for drainage systems leading to catchment areas for effluent. Anecdotal evidence from Farmers interviewed by this author while assisting/observing on farm effluent spreading and fertilisation (companies Farm Effluent Pumping and Agrissentials respectively) suggests cows urinate/defecate on cue when their feet get wet. Gary et al., (1983) found that cows are twice as likely to void while standing in streams and this was frequently after drinking. While milking sheds and wintering pads might typically have drainage systems incorporated, specific targeting of other high use areas for effluent drainage and storage should be concentrated around watering and pathing areas for herds. In addition to this, utilising cattle’s propensity to void more often when their feet get wet might increase effluent collection in contained areas e.g. incorporating a ‘hoof bath’ for cattle in milking sheds and surrounding watering troughs. This concept is worth researching, increasing effluent collection by a small percentage in milking sheds alone would be a significant overall reduction of effluent remaining in pastures.

    In the pasture itself cow patties are fairly recalcitrant taking several weeks to break down in ideal conditions (Blank et al, 1983), and months in less than ideal conditions (Lee & Wall, 2006). Insecticides slow decomposition by compromising the Dipteran and Coleopteran populations that utilise cow pats for development (Strong, 1992). Reduction of insecticides takes place via the reduction of insect pests, as will be outlined further (poultry, beneficial insects). One UK study found 23 Dipteran and 22 Coleopteran species inhabiting cow pats (Wall & Lee, 2010). New Zealand studies of insect communities in cow pats are recommended. The recalcitrance of cow pats is such that flail type spreaders are used by farmers to break up and scatter them about pastures. The practise consumes labour hours plus fuel and equipment maintenance costs.

    Poultry thrive on high quality protein, such as that derived from insects (Das et al, 2012; Defoliart, 1975). Salatin (1999) describe a system where poultry are cycled three days after the cattle herd have been removed from a pasture. This allows time for insects to lay, and larvae to form, in the cow pats. The poultry tear cow pats apart and in the process spread them about to get at the insects held within them. This reduces flies on the farm (and subsequently fly strike, vet bills and the need for bovine insecticidal dosing), and increases decomposition rates of the patties through greatly increasing surface area and ground contact. As a by-product of the spreading service poultry provide, poultry and/or egg production and chicken manure/bedding is generated. Time constraints placed on farmers need not be an issue. Contractors could be utilised to produce poultry based products and cover many farms within the scope of their business while paying farmers a percentage of profits for the land use. Chicken bedding substrates go downstream to supplement methane production in biodigesters for power generation.

    Chicken manure is a viable source of nitrogen and phosphorus for plant growth (Materechera & Moruse, 2009). Chicken manure supports methane yields at ~270L/kg of volatile solids, higher than other livestock wastes (Huang & Shih, 1981). Other benefits of chicken manure include: a decrease in soil nematodes and enhanced root growth, (Kaplan & Noe, 1993), acidity correction, enhanced plant calcium uptake, and detoxification of soluble aluminium (Hue, 1992), and reduced phytotoxicity of cadmium, a toxic metal that enters the food chain and is found in elevated levels in many dairy production soils in New Zealand (Liu et al, 2009).

    Collected effluent, shed wash-water and chicken bedding is utilised in an anaerobic biodigester. Anaerobic biodigesters conserve nutrients and minerals, reduce smell and pathogen loads, inactivate weed seeds, and produce biogas for power production and compostable goods for fertiliser production (Wilkie, 2005). The nutrient rich effluent liquid produced in the biodigester is used for the production of duckweed. The duckweed is useful as feed for cattle, swine, poultry and fish (Zhao et al, 2012).

    Duckweed (Subfamily: Lemniodeae) is a highly productive free floating aquatic plant that produces > 40% crude protein by dried weight (Landesman et al, 2002). In the context of swine waste, an average of 98% of total nitrogen and 98.8% of total phosphorus was removed in duckweed culture using liquid biodigester effluent, while duckweed production was 68t/ha dry matter per year (Mohedano et al, 2012). By contrast, Waikato dairy pastures produce between 9.5 and 26.1 t/ha dry matter per year (Clark et al, 2010), with crude protein content of various grass cultures in the Waikato (annuals, perennials, annual/perennial mixed with leguminous companions) ranging between 20.7 and 23.9% (Minnee, 2011). Effluent water is cleaned in duckweed ponds and then drained into wetlands.

    Wetlands are situated in drainage convergence point/s on each farm to maximise the likelihood of capturing (and utilising) diffuse nutrients (and water) from overland and sub-surface water flow. The use of otherwise productive land area for wetlands is a bone of contention with many farmers however, costs are alleviated from tradeoffs between commodity production and conservation values when ecosystem services are taken into account (Nelson et al., 2009). The combination of biodigester and wetlands provides pollution mitigation on ≤ half of the land required by wetlands alone to perform the same function (Tanner et al, 2012). The 2013 drought was estimated to cost Northland dairy farmers 500 million dollars (Northern Advocate, 2013). The number of dairy farms in Northland (~9% of ~13000 NZ total) is ~1170. This gives an average potential loss of > $420,000 per Northland farm in the 2012-2013 season. In light of this, the costs of wetlands provisioning drought protection alone make them economically feasible.

    Wetlands minimise export of nutrients into adjacent water bodies (Wilcock, 2011; Harrison et al, 2010). One study of water stored in Waikato wetlands reported the removal of carbon (95%), nitrogen (70%) and phosphorus (95%) for plant and microbial growth, while around 70% of faecal bacteria were also reduced (Wilcock et al, 2011). The settled sediment/mud provides an anoxic layer for sulphate-reducing and denitrifying bacteria. The by-product of sulphate-reducing bacteria is sulphide which within the acidic conditions of subsurface wetland sediment complexes with and removes heavy metals from the water (Moreau et al, 2013). The by-product of denitrifying bacteria is atmospheric nitrogen gas which can effectively reduce nitrogen loads from water (Harrison et al, 2010).

    Pastures, wetlands and shelter belts are all potential sources of the ecosystem services that biodiversity enhancement can provide. Biodiversity is positively correlated with production (Forest & Wilsey, 2011; Pfisterer & Schmid, 2002; Loreau, 2000). On intensively grazed plots Forest and Wilsey (2011) found increasing pasture plant species richness from one to four (native) species resulted in a 44% increase in above ground productivity. A well selected range of plant life in wetland riparian edges and shelter belts provided as habitat for invertebrate species can establish self perpetuating pest control and pollination services. A range of pollinators in diverse habitats assist in maintaining production, while paying for supplementary pollination does little to increase pollination (Carvalheiro, 2010). Native insects are adapted to New Zealand conditions and some e.g. the native bee Leioproctus huakiwi are easily established when provided with habitat (Donovan et al, 2010).

    Ranges of beneficial insects can be extended throughout the farm by selection of functional plant species in shelter belts composed of trees and flowering plants. Nitrogen fixing trees can increase yield and decrease fertiliser use with upwards of 60 kg/ha/yr nitrogen added though biological N fixation (Akinnifesi et al, 2011), and specific nitrogen fixing tree species e.g. Leucaena leucocephala have been used as stock feed for centuries (Shelton & Brewbaker, 1994). Shelter belts can provide nutrient removal, timber production, shading, feedstock production (Torres, 1983), and beneficial predatory, parasitoid and pollinator insect habitat (Long et al, 1998). All of these benefits may also be utilised around wetlands with good planning of wetland riparian planting.

    To meet financial and ecological goals simultaneously it is useful to create efficiencies through the generation of useful by-products alongside pollution mitigation strategies. People will pay a premium for sustainable products such as those this type of system generates (Donald, 2004). This system generates by-products including poultry/eggs, compost, biogas, timber and stock food, with ecosystem service provision of carbon sequestration, nitrogen fixation, drought resistance, pollination, pest control and pollutant reduction. Through observing nature one soon discovers that ‘waste’ does not typically exist. One organism’s by-product is another organism’s fuel. Using this approach, nutrient streams are harvestable resources whereby both farmer and planet may benefit. This is a win-win scenario. The increased labour within systems such as this may be viewed negatively but in the light of New Zealand’s unemployment problems I fail to see the logic.

    New Zealand’s dairy farms today are multi-million dollar businesses. Changes in practise for farmers must be backed by research and incentive to do so. Some of the system as outlined here needs to be tested in a New Zealand dairy context including ‘hoof baths’, duckweed culture and specific plant communities in shelter belts and pastures.


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    • Robert Guyton 14.1

      Would you care to expand upon that, DB Brown?

      • DB Brown 14.1.1

        "Would you care to expand upon that"

        If the money's right.

        Paragraph two tells you what you're in for.

    • Stuart Munro 14.2

      Good stuff!

      Black Soldier Fly are also a prospect for waste treatment/poultry feed – not sure how they fare on cowpoo but they're a good bet on most things moist & organic. 20 degrees plus though, so a summertime or sheltered enterprise.

      • DB Brown 14.2.1

        The soldier flies certainly have their place in a cleaner future. I'd be interested to see how they go on cow shit too.

        I fancy them for an aquaponics set-up myself. Inputs of manure/processing wastes (from fish and veg) turned into fish food that produce manure that's turned into vegetables…

        Pretty good deal there – fish and vegetables in exchange for shit. You'd want to house them in part of a temp controlled greenhouse, put the pond into the floor to give thermal stability… gravity can do the aeration and water return, solar to pump it up.

        A person could make bank setting that up right. Bonus that it reduces waste.

        • Stuart Munro

          There's a fellow supplying them to reptile breeders iNZect direct, if you want some broodstock.

          • DB Brown

            They're one of those 'if you build it they will come' insects. Just wait till temps > 20 and keep an eye on the compost heap…

            Good on that chap for getting into them. We need some local experience/expertise coming through.

    • Hunter Thompson II 14.3

      Quite a detailed comment there. To me, the bottom line is simple: we need clean, free-flowing rivers for the next generation.

      Fewer cows and vastly improved land management practices would be an excellent start.

      If that means a lower material standard of living, then so be it. I never wanted a Maserati anyway.

      • DB Brown 14.3.1

        I often try to illustrate potential revenue streams in conjunction with green(er) tech so those who only understand profit might actually consider free PR, sensible conduct environmental measures.*

        *even if sold them under false pretenses.

  14. PsyclingLeft.Always 15

    Milk & Money: intensive dairying in New Zealand


    I was kilometres away from a farm and my boots were clean. What I was smelling was the stink of hundreds of thousands of dairy cows wafting off the plains and out to sea.

    In 1990 there were only 40,000 dairy cows in all of Southland. Only 30 years later there are over 600,000.


    40,000 cows…to 600,000 ? ! That theres the Problem . Totally. Milk and …Money ! Greenpeace article well thought and presented. Series probably available on Demand

  15. Peter McDougall 16

    Come out from behind your nom de plume coward so people can take you seriously.

    [Read the Policy regarding attacking authors, and attacking people using pseudonyms. If you want to be taken seriously, there are rules here to ensure robust debate – weka]

  16. Robert Guyton 18

    Just about to begin a meeting with Rod Carr 🙂

    • Jimmy 18.1

      You two could be brothers!

      • Robert Guyton 18.1.1

        He's clipped his beard close!

        So disappointed.

        Had a long chat pre-presentation, about what he's planning to do as the climate "changes" – very personable and smart!

        • weka

          what was the meeting?

          • Robert Guyton

            Environment Southland invited Rod Carr to visit and speak to all councils (at the one event) about the work of the Climate Commission; excellent presentation, extraordinary man (Jo Hendry too, was excellent) earth-shattering korero (imo) all in all, attended by mayors and chairs, councillors and key staff – clarity and reality-check all round. If anyone has a criticism of Rod Carr, put on your metaphorical gloves and I'll meet you in the ring 🙂

  17. the death cult are like saurons men despoiling the shire because they have lost and want to wreck everything before the hobbits can get back and put things to rights. the deathcult are hard to shake. they have the law and precedence on their side and they promise money which is a pretty to hard to beat nexus of fiat money and happiness. hahahahahaha

  18. late capitalism has produced a society besotted by money and goods in anunending flow and cornucopia. it isn't going to last but the pathologically acqusititive and the psychopaths who use the sytem to give them a legal hold over others are not going to let go without a fight.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • The big question for Labour: Will Hipkins have any more success than Ardern did with the top priorit...
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    Point of OrderBy poonzteam5443
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    5 days ago
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    6 days ago
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    6 days ago
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    7 days ago
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    7 days ago
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    1 week ago
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    1 week ago
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    1 week ago
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    1 week ago
  • The Dream of Florian Neame: Accepted
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    1 week ago
  • Snakes and leaders
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    1 week ago
  • This station is Karanga-a-Hape, Chur!
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    1 week ago
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    1 week ago
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  • District Court Judges appointed
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    18 hours ago
  • New project set to supercharge ocean economy in Nelson Tasman
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • National’s education policy: where’s the funding?
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
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