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To: Environment Canterbury (ECan)

Cut synthetic nitrogen fertiliser

We call on the Environment Canterbury Regional Council to use its environmental mandate to phase out synthetic nitrogen fertiliser using the policy instruments available.

Why is this important?

Together we are facing enormous challenges to our local ecosystems and climate. Our food production systems need to be resilient and sustainable to guarantee a long term future. Everyone deserves to swim in clean rivers and have safe drinking water.

But too many cows and too much chemical fertiliser is rapidly polluting the rivers, lakes and drinking water we should all be able to enjoy and rely on. The agriculture sector is currently Aotearoa New Zealand’s biggest polluter, causing 48% of all our greenhouse gas emissions, and overloading our rivers with nitrate nitrogen.

Synthetic nitrogen fertiliser is the key ingredient that has intensified agriculture in Aotearoa, in particular dairy farming. Since 1990, dairy cow numbers have doubled. The addition of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser on the land has increased seven-fold.

Dairy farmers spread synthetic nitrogen fertiliser onto farmland in vast quantities because in the short term it’s an easy way to make grass and other crops grow fast.

Synthetic nitrogen fertiliser is a double whammy for the climate. Its use enables increasing numbers of cows on the land, which increases methane gas emissions from burps, and more nitrous oxide emissions from manure and urine. Nitrous oxide is one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases. It’s 265 times worse for trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

Synthetic nitrogen fertiliser is mostly sold here by just two companies; Ravensdown and Ballance and industrial dairying is their biggest customer by far.

Besides our climate, our once clean rivers and lakes are increasingly polluted. When nitrogen gets into rivers and lakes it can cause algal blooms which can suck all the oxygen out of the water, suffocating fish and other species. Our once-safe drinking water is becoming contaminated. Entire freshwater ecosystems are being pushed past breaking point. We are on the brink of losing native freshwater species forever.

A transition away from industrial livestock farming and mass milk production is required. It starts with an urgent ban on synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, and a nationwide shift to more plant-based regenerative organic farming.

Regenerative organic farming is a way of growing food that works with nature. Instead of using synthetic nitrogen regenerative farmers use nitrogen fixing plants and put their effort into building healthy soil. They farm a diverse mix of crop and animal varieties, and use methods like cover cropping, inter-cropping, agro-forestry, and no-till techniques.

Together, we can move towards regenerative organic farming. But first, we need to starve Big Ag of its key ingredient.

The Government has set new rules for fresh water which limit the amount of nitrogen fertiliser farmers can use, but still leave the limit too high. Our Regional Council has the responsibility for environmental management, monitoring, enforcement and compliance, and has the power to cut synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use.

Join the call! Add your name today to demand our Councillors cut synthetic nitrogen fertiliser.

Report: The hidden killer, 2019. How synthetic nitrogen fertiliser is fuelling intensive dairying,
polluting our rivers and climate.

Agriculture emissions and climate change 2021

Why New Zealand has to cut synthetic nitrogen fertiliser

The Regenerators

How it will be delivered

In person to ECan




2022-05-28 11:18:57 +1200

1,000 signatures reached

2022-03-04 17:09:56 +1300

500 signatures reached

2022-02-04 21:00:35 +1300

100 signatures reached

2022-02-04 19:34:52 +1300

50 signatures reached

2022-02-04 19:05:17 +1300

25 signatures reached

2022-01-30 18:09:20 +1300

10 signatures reached