For the last few decades, the Government has been herding New Zealand farmers towards the dairy gravy train. By 2025, the New Zealand dairy industry aims to substantially increase production, and the National Government’s key international focus seems to be furthering the interests of the dairy industry in New Zealand 1. 12,000 New Zealand dairy farmers 2 and associated lobby groups have a huge influence on government policy 3.
Looking at annual export statistics, we can see there are plenty of other major sources of domestic income that don’t benefit from the same level of Government support:
- ICT – $30 billion 4
- Dairy – $15 billion 5
- Tourism – $11 billion 6
- Meat – $7.3 billion 7
- General Horticulture – $7 billion 8 (E.g. Kiwifruit alone contributes $900 million 9)
- Wine – $1.3 billion 10
New Zealand’s disproportionate focus on dairy farming is an ominous threat for the economy long-term; economic diversity is essential in order to future-proof New Zealand’s exports. The huge Government emphasis on dairy farming has precipitated a critical situation where supply vastly outstrips demand, leading to huge debt for dairy farmers and a saturated market 11. Currently, dairy payouts are lower than the cost for most farmers to produce the milk; thus, the financial justification for increasing dairying in New Zealand is problematic, with many farmers facing huge debt and unlikely to recover.
Increasing numbers of New Zealander’s do not support the dairy industry, for many reasons, including:
- Increasingly dire pollution of waterways and soil from stock effluent 12
- Overuse of water from rivers, lakes and aquifers (leading to shortages for other water users)
- High methane emissions (a staggering third of all of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions 13)
- Huge financial debt of farms overall (In the past 10 years, New Zealand’s dairy debt has trebled to $34.5 billion) 14
- Poor treatment of contractors 15
- Low dairy pay-outs in a fluctuating market suffering from global over-supply 16
- Loss of democracy (ECan is now controlled by the National Government; this was primarily done to enable water use for dairy farms and represents a clear conflict of interest) 17
- Increasing awareness of well documented negative health effects, including lactose intolerance 18
- Inherent cruelty for cows (2+ million bobby calves are prematurely weaned and killed each year, and dairy cows are pushed to maximum production, halving their natural lifespan) 19
- Extreme animal abuse regularly found on New Zealand farms 20
The clean, green, 100% Pure New Zealand brand is now seriously threatened from intensive dairy farming, as our environment continues to degrade rapidly. Additionally, industry smokescreen statements claiming that New Zealand has “the best animal welfare practices in the world” are not matching up to what people are increasingly seeing as reality.
There’s no dispute that New Zealand needs jobs and strong export income sources. Just like the successful wine and kiwifruit industries, there are a wide range of commercially viable crops that grow well in New Zealand’s diverse conditions, without the potential for such dire environmental consequences. Some examples of protein-rich crops that grow well in New Zealand are 21:
New Zealand also needs to think about value added products. In the same way grape growers don’t export unprocessed grapes, but instead make internationally award-winning wine, a similar approach can be applied to other horticultural products. There’s no simple one-stop solution, but a lot more effort needs to be put into identifying alternate options. Farmed sustainably, many high-demand crops could help the economy without damaging the environment to such a massive degree. Diversification of production has less of a harmful environmental effect.
Dairy is cruel and exploitive to animals, unhealthy for people and bad for the environment. If there are no clear economic benefits and there are viable alternatives, then even the dairy zealots have to question the rationale of increasing the size of the dairy industry in New Zealand. The dairy industry is damaging New Zealand’s economy with low payouts and it will continue to put the economy at serious risk in the future as global consumers become educated about the true cost of a glass of milk.
1. TPPA and Dairy
2. South Island Dairying
3. Questions Asked Over Dairy Pollution Documents
4. New Zealand ICT Jobs
5. The Significance Of Dairy To The New Zealand Economy
6. Key Tourism Statistics
7. Meat Industry Association
8. Fresh Facts 2014
9. Kiwifruit Trade Statistics
10. Fresh Facts 2014
11. Fonterra Cuts Milk Payout
12. The True Cost Of Dairying
13. New Zealand Methane Emissions
14. Dairy Farmer’s Borrowing Binge
15. Contractors Scared To Speak Out Over Fonterra
16. Dairy Payout History
17. ECan’s First Stuttering Steps Back To Democracy
18. Health Concerns About Dairy Products
19. Born To Die
20. Clean Green Cruelty Free
21. Nut Crops Summary
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