Greenpeace exposes dairy incursion into Mackenzie country

Press release - May 9, 2018
Greenpeace has released drone video footage revealing a major dairy incursion into wilderness country in the Mackenzie.

The shots show the beginnings of a pipeline to take water out of the Waitaki catchment to irrigate a massive dairy operation for up to 15,000 cows.

"Corporate dairy is gearing up to destroy the Mackenzie country, a unique and precious wilderness, home to critically endangered native species," says Gen Toop, Greenpeace’s sustainable agriculture campaigner.

The irrigation pipeline is being built by Dunedin accountant and developer Murray Valentine and is set to run across Crown land currently owned by the public.

"The Mackenzie is not cow country. It’s dry, it’s soils are leaky- which means dairy pollution runs straight through the stones and into the waterways, and it’s incredibly ecologically sensitive" says Toop.

The proposed site for the corporate dairying operation just south of Lake Pūkaki is a unique desert-like dryland on glacial outwash plains.

Simons Pass is home to 18 threatened plants and four threatened bird species, including the critically endangered Black Stilt. There are 100 left in existence.

"To make enough grass grow for intensive dairy in this dry environment Mr Valentine will have to heavily irrigate with water from our lakes and rivers as well as apply tonnes of chemical fertilisers - much of which will end up in the waterways."

"New Zealand already has too many cows for our rivers, our land and our climate to cope with. We cannot allow the dairy industry to convert more land into dairy farms, especially not in the Mackenzie" says Toop.

"The Government must step in, stop all new dairy conversions and start reducing the herd."

Environment Minister David Parker announced this week that incoming tougher nutrient pollution regulations may mean fewer cows on some farms in the future.

But Greenpeace says this will not be enough and is calling on the Government to stop all new dairy conversions and intensification of existing livestock farming.

The environmental organisation launched a ‘Save the Mackenzie’ petition on Friday calling on the Government to make new dairy conversions and intensification of existing livestock farms prohibited activities.

It has gained more than 10,000 signatures in 48 hours, one of Greenpeace’s fastest growing petitions in recent years.

"The momentum of this petition should embolden the government to stand up to corporate dairying and stop it from destroying more of New Zealand," adds Toop. "It’s time to diversify away from intensive dairying and support farmers to switch to more regenerative ways of farming."

Drone footage can be downloaded here


  • It’s estimated 23,000 olympic swimming pools worth of water will be drawn out of the catchment each year.
  • The plans are to install 26 pivot irrigators, some more than a kilometre long turning the golden tussocks into green artificial circles of ryegrass.
  • The same pattern that can be seen from the air in the south of Mackenzie country. (see UAV shots)
  • Conservative estimates are that the development will leach 76,615 kg/Nitrogen/year and 1,938 kg/Phosphorus/year into the Waitaki catchment.
  • The soils on which this conversion is planned are characterised as well drained or excessively well drained (CRC062387)