National | Dairy

NZ dairy farming future uncertain

What does the future of farming look like in New Zealand? That was the big question at the Fonterra National Conference in Auckland where more than six hundred farmers from across the country gathered, including Māori landowners.

Land, cows and milk were on the agenda at the My Connect Fonterra conference.

But, according to Tūhoe kaumātua Paki Nikora, there's much more to be shared and much more to be discussed.

"Māori have our own knowledge and so do Pākeha. There's nothing better than working together".

Tiaki Hunia is Fonterra's general manager of Māori strategy.  He says the conference has been the perfect platform to engage with Māori farmers from across New Zealand.

"Here we meet with Māori farmers and listen to their thoughts as well as their concerns so that we can forge a pathway into the future".

The Ministry of the Environment highlighted a 69 percent increase in dairy cattle numbers between 1994 and 2015 and found that freshwater biodiversity was in decline.

Hunia says a key focus today was the environment.

"It's an important topic- how do we improve and conserve the state of the environment, the water and land?".

Nikora doesn't believe that the future of farming in New Zealand lies within the dairy industry.  He says the environmental impacts are too harsh.

"I don't think that using our land to produce dairy is the right thing to do.  It's better if we reduce the number of cows that are allowed to graze on one single hectare of land".

However, he's open to the thought of Fonterra building dialogue with Māori and being included in discussions about where to go from here.