If there is one issue that's important to all New Zealanders, it's water quality, says DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle.
That's why The Vision Is Clear is launching – a partnership between DairyNZ and NZME to raise awareness throughout New Zealand that farmers are working towards improving waterways and to inspire Kiwis to get involved.
"We've called the movement 'The Vision is Clear', demonstrating that there is a clear vision for change and reflecting the benefit of this vision to all New Zealanders – healthier waterways for all to enjoy".
Dr Mackle says the idea behind the movement and why DairyNZ is powering it, is that dairy farmers acknowledge that producing milk can impact on the environment and waterways. They also want New Zealanders to know that they value our environment and our rivers, lakes and streams.
"We know dairy has contributed to the water quality challenge and we know we are part of the solution. Over the past several years, dairy farmers have been doing their bit: taking action to farm sustainably and improve water quality, and will continue to do so.
"It's a long game and one we need to partner with all New Zealanders on. To solve New Zealand's water quality issues, we have to take a collective approach."
"We all want the same thing," he says, "water quality which enables us to enjoy the water riches of this country – and that needs all of us to do our bit. The Vision Is Clear is just that – we all have a clear vision of what we want for our rivers, lakes, streams and beaches.
"This partnership is designed to bring together informative, educative and helpful information to assist everyone to play a part."
Mackle says DairyNZ supports the government plans to provide "a noticeable improvement" in water quality within the next five years, with new rules to be set in place by 2020 "and the need to accelerate the good work already under way in many parts of the country."
The good news is that it is already happening, says Mackle. The recent Land And Water Aotearoa (LAWA) 10-year national river water quality summary released just last month showed improvements being made.
The summary reported on nine markers to measure water quality – and found that, for many indicators, more rivers were improving than declining in water quality. They also made it clear there was still much work to do, especially where macro-invertebrates are concerned.
Meanwhile, a DairyNZ and Feds survey in 2015 found that dairy farmers' environmental investment had topped $1 billion in the previous five years – with an estimated $90,000 being spent on each dairy farm, on average, in that time to protect and improve the environment, including effluent management and millions of dollars spent on retiring land and developing or preserving wetlands (which protect against river and lake pollution).
Cities also play a major role in looking after water, and a significant need for investment has been uncovered for local councils to clean up their city's water quality and wastewater issues. Auckland Council alone is looking to spend $7 billion over the next decade to address overflow problems– with about 60 sites that regularly overflow into streams and onto beaches.
"Again, that's what The Vision Is Clear is all about," he says. "The more we can all do, wherever we are, to be aware of our impact on water, the better. We can all make a difference and improve our practices so that we can have clean and healthy waterways."