A shift towards organic farming practices and diversification is needed to protect and enhance our waterways and our economy, says the Soil & Health Association. The recently released report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright, shows that water quality is deteriorating, particularly in areas where there is expansion or intensification of dairy farming.
“The current push for more dairy farms and more animals on the land is not sustainable,” said Marion Thomson, co-chair of Soil & Health. “We need to be farming smart and farming to the conditions of each area, rather than trying to wring as much as we can out of the land, or extracting huge volumes of water to irrigate naturally dry areas.”
Already many farmers are using smart farming practices that reduce nutrient leaching. Organic farming methods improve the soil biology and soil structure, which means better water retention and less nutrient leaching. Organic and biological farmers make use of natural fertilisers including legumes, instead of soluble artificial nitrogen fertilisers that are more prone to leaching.
“There are limits to how much our land and waterways can take, and we must live within those limits if we are to continue to earn a livelihood from the land, and protect, preserve and improve the land for future generations,” said Thomson.
“There are also health concerns as nitrate levels in drinking water increase,” said Thomson. In October, Environment Canterbury released a groundwater survey which found that nitrate levels in their region had increased in about 30% of tested wells over the past ten years. In the Ashburton area 20 wells exceeded the safe nitrate level, and the Canterbury District Health Board’s medical officer of health warned that infant death could result if nitrates were not more strictly controlled.
‘Water quality in New Zealand: Land use and nutrient pollution’, Jan Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment
Soil & Health, established in 1941, is one of the world’s oldest organic organisations and publishes Organic NZ. We advocate for people’s right to have fresh, healthy, organic food and water free of GE, pesticides and additives. Oranga nuku, oranga kai, oranga tangata.