Fonterra launches environment plan to improve waterways

By 2025 all of its farmers will have a farm environmental plan as part of their supply agreement

New Zealand’s dairy giant Fonterra is looking to improve the quality of the country’s waterways through an environmental plan based on six strategic commitments.

The co-op, which is owned by 10,500 farmers, makes up 25% of the country’s exports. The initiative is part of Fonterra’s Tiaki Sustainable Dairy Programme, which touched upon farm environment plans for all suppliers, consent support, nitrogen reports, farm mapping and plans around managing riparian and effluent.

Miles Hurrell, chief operating officer at Fonterra Farm Source, said: “Like all Kiwis, we want healthy rivers. Our farmers have spent over NZ$1bn on environmental initiatives over the past five years and fenced more than 98% of significant waterways on the farm. That’s a major undertaking but it highlights our commitment to getting this right and we’re already seeing that in some regions these actions are having a positive impact on water quality.

“All intensive land uses have had an impact on water quality in this country. That’s why we have to work together to address the issue. Today, we’re putting up our hands and promising to work with communities to promote healthy waterways for Kiwis to enjoy. Importantly, we’re backing up our words with action and making tangible commitments that we believe will make a real difference”.

The co-op has also recently pledged to restore 50 key freshwater catchments. Its six commitments include farming within regional environmental limits and encouraging strong environmental farming practices. In addition, Fonterra promises to reduce water use and improve wastewater quality at manufacturing plants and investing in science and innovation to find new solutions.

Another commitment is to build partnerships to improve waterway health and make the products people value most. As part of this plan, Fonterra sets out some clear actions such as supporting regional councils to set environmental limits for water use, investing $250m to drive a 20% reduction in water use across its 26 manufacturing sites and doubling the Co-operatives Network of Sustainable Dairy Advisors.

The co-op has set a target that by 2025 all of its farmers will have a farm environmental plan as part of their supply agreement.

Currently, 95% of its farmers have nitrogen management reports, which reduces the risk of leaching. Furthermore, around 2.4bn litres of water at its NZ manufacturing sites are recycled or reused. Overall Fonterra farmers have invested $1bn in environmental initiatives over the last five years.

“We’re keen to show New Zealanders the hard work going on behind the farm gate, so on 10 December, we’ll be hosting one of New Zealand’s largest ever community open days, giving people across the country the chance to visit one of 40 farms and see what we’re doing for themselves. Our farmers are looking forward to opening their gates,” added Mr Hurrell.

In this article

Join the Conversation