Fonterra Milk Pow(d)er

A giant milk powder plant to enhance the scenery...

State Highway 73 from Christchurch to the West Coast via Arthur's Pass is called the Alpine Pacific Highway for a reason: The scenery is beautiful, and the journey is one of the most spectacular drives New Zealand has to offer. And for quite a long time it has stayed true to its name and promise. Until Fonterra came.

Fonterra is milk, milk is milk powder, milk powder is export money, export money is power, power is - abused. When you now drive to the West Coast, just behind Darfield the once scenic highway has been widened, so milk tankers can drive up and down day and night. A monstrosity of a concrete tower is blocking the view to the mountains - just at a place where it is not allowed to graze dairy cows because the soil is contaminated with DDT. Fonterra, the world's biggest milk producer, has turned a rural area into an industrial zone.

Milk is gold, and dairy farming is king despite its abysmal record of polluting the environment. The dairy industry causes nearly 50 per cent of New Zealand greenhouse gases, and run-off from farms, nitrate leaching into the ground and cows accessing waterways are responsible for the dramatic pollution of rivers, streams and lakes. And the taxpayer has to foot the bill of the clean-up.

Before Fonterra came, a Dutch immigrant who lived there with her daughter ran a lovely B&B on the other side of the road. Its name was "The Oaks". She had restored and extended the historic homestead into a stunning heritage building. We had never met her but always admired this wonderful house when driving past. It stood in the middle of nowhere.

Now this lady lives in a small beach town in Pegasus Bay because Fonterra decided to build this milk powder plant right opposite her house. They could have built it east of Darfield, or further west, just somewhere where they would not have derailed the life and business of a person who cared about this country's heritage. But no, it had to be just opposite the house.

It was a hopeless fight. The commissioners who had decide on Fonterra's application were very understanding. But when there is big money to be made and the economy might get a boost, it is hard to convince even the nicest commissioners that they should decide in favour of an individual and its moral rights. Concerns about the detrimental effect on tourism do not count as long as the Government and Tourism New Zealand succeed in convincing the rest of the world that New Zealand is green and clean.

Nothing is about fairness and justice, nothing is about the environment. It is all about money, money, money.

Photos during construction, taken in December 2011