New Zealand is on the brink of introducing factory farming of dairy cows, the Green Party said today.
Consent applications were recently lodged with Environment Canterbury for factory-style dairy farms in the Mackenzie Basin.
Three companies plan to establish 16 new farms with nearly 18,000 cows in the area. According to the applications, all 18,000 cows will be housed in ‘cubicle stables' 24 hours a day for eight months of the year, and 12 hours a day for the remaining four months.
"This is factory farming, pure and simple," Green Party Co-leader Russel Norman said.
"Proposals to keep cows in cubicles that they don't leave for eight months of the year are a radical departure from our tradition of farming stock outside and on pasture, and could do immense harm to our clean, green international brand.
"Once word gets out to overseas consumers that New Zealand butter comes from factory farms, there goes our competitive advantage.
"Fonterra counters ‘food-miles' arguments from our European competitors by saying that our milk products are more environmentally friendly than factory-farmed milk. This proposal flies in the face of that strategy.
"It's also a chilling prospect from an animal welfare perspective."
Green Party Agriculture Spokesperson Jeanette Fitzsimons said most of the farmers she had visited this year and featured on her ‘Good Farm Stories' website would be appalled at this move.
"Those innovative farmers have shown that it's possible to be profitable and sustainable, and to treat animals well, without repeating the mistakes of the rest of the world," Ms Fitzsimons said.
Dr Norman also expressed concern at the environmental impact of the proposals.
"These proposals could put the majestic Upper Waitaki River and pristine high country lakes such as Lakes Tekapo, Pukaki, and Ohau at risk from effluent run off and algal blooms. It will produce the effluent equivalent to a city of 270,000 people in the Mackenzie basin."
The consent applications include effluent ponds with 414 million litres of storage capacity and plans to put as much as1.7 million litres of diluted effluent onto the land every day.
"These factory farms in the Mackenzie Basin will produce the same amount of effluent as a city of 270,000 people and it is especially worrying that the director of one of these companies has a history of effluent discharge breaches," Dr Norman said.
Cornelius Zeestraten, the director of Five Rivers Ltd, is also the sole director and shareholder of Union Station Dairies, which was fined in 2009 and 2005 for effluent discharge consent breaches.
"The Mackenzie Basin is an iconic dry tussockland ecosystem and the gateway to the jewel of our tourism industry, Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park. Putting it at risk like this is madness," Dr Norman said.
Submissions on the consents are open until Friday 18 December.