A sustainable dairy sector is critical to our country’s economic success and well-being. Our size and contribution make the dairy industry responsible to our local communities and those around the world. Sustainability also guards the future of our sector, protecting not just the environment but people, animals, profits and communities for the long term.

DairyNZ is part of the Dairy Tomorrow partner group, which was developed alongside Federated Farmers, Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) and the Dairy Women’s Network.  Dairy Tomorrow acknowledges the vital importance of our natural environment, a competitive dairy industry, valued nutrition, world-leading animal care, great workplaces and talent, and a connection to wider communities.

Dairy Tomorrow commitment to greater transparency, openness and collaboration are key to maximising the value of New Zealand milk within environmental limits while preserving the benefits of our pasture-based system.

Our journey so far

2003 - The Dairying and Clean Stream Accord (DCSA)

The DSCA sets targets for excluding cows from waterways and wetlands, effluent compliance and nutrient management. It was signed by DairyNZ, Fonterra, the Ministry for the Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and regional councils.

2013 - Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching (FRNL) starts

Science-based forage production options can lead to more than 20% reduction of nitrate leaching – a DairyNZ-led FRNL programme.

2013 – Dairy Environment Leaders formed

The DairyNZ Dairy Environment Leaders movement was initiated to develop a national, farmer-led network of practically minded and environmentally conscious farmers to help support dairy farmer actions to encourage and influence a sustainable future.

2013 – Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord launched

Building off the Dairying and Clean Stream Accord, the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord (SDWA) was launched as a voluntary and independently audited commitment from the dairy sector to improve New Zealand’s waterways.

2017 – Dairy Tomorrow Strategy

This joint sector sustainable dairy strategy is established. It includes a commitment to protect and nurture the environment for future generations, among other sustainability commitments.

2017 – Dairy Action for Climate Change

The Dairy Action for Climate Change (DACC) was developed in partnership with Fonterra and supported by MPI and MfE to support dairy farmers as they work to address on-farm methane and nitrous emissions long-term.

2018 – Three Sustainable catchment projects launched

Three new catchment-scale change projects were launched to support farmers in the Tararua, Selwyn-Hinds and Aparima Catchments to improve water quality outcomes while maintaining profitable and resilient farming businesses.

2018 - Greenhouse Gas Partnership Farms Project

This project was created to help farmers understand their on-farm options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and what impact those actions might have not only for their environmental footprint but also on profitability.

2019 – He Waka Eke Noa

In a world-first, the primary sector, Māori and the government partnered to develop a framework for reducing emissions. This framework will ensure that, by 2025, every farm will know its greenhouse gas emission numbers and have a plan to manage them.

2019 - Climate Change Ambassadors

The Climate Change Ambassador network were established to help dairy farmers and our farming communities understand how they can make environmental improvements on their farms.

2019 – Five years of the Sustainable Dairy: Water Accord

The dairy sector launched a five-year report summarising dairy farmer achievements through the Accord. Achievements included fencing off 98% of significant waterways, installing bridges and culverts on 100% of dairy crossing points, and assessing 100% of farms for effluent management practices.

2019 – Step Change launched

DairyNZ’s Step Change programme gives farmers options for achieving environmental goals while also increasing profit.

2023 - The future – Dairy Tomorrow environmental commitment

We set out a co-ordinated sector approach to continue protecting and nurturing the environment for future generations. This is based on a report, Dairy Tomorrow – Protecting our Environment, published in 2022. 

Taking the initiative

Sustainable catchments program

Tararua Plantain Project

Introducing plantain as environmental forage to reduce nitrogen leaching.

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Sustainable catchments program

A Sustainable Future

This initiative helps Selwyn and Hinds farmers enhance profitability and resilience while meeting environmental obligations.

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Sustainable catchments program

Aparima Water Quality

A group of Southland farmers have united to encourage farming practices across the Aparima Catchment to enhance water quality for future generations.

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Sustainable catchments program

Jobs for Nature

Three catchments benefit from Jobs for Nature – Mahi mō te Taiao, DOC’s initiative to fund projects that support nature and create local jobs.

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Leading the industry

Dairy Environment Leaders

Led by farmers, Dairy Environment Leaders (DEL) guides peers in minimizing environmental impact and advocates for practical environmental policies.

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Leading the industry

Climate Change Ambassadors

Climate Change Ambassadors play a crucial role in guiding dairy farmers and their communities on making environmental enhancements on their farms.

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Leading the industry

Sustainable Dairying Water Accord

In 2013, we committed to the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord, a dairy sector pledge to enhance New Zealand's waterways.

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Competitive and resilient businesses 

Internationally competitive and resilient farm systems are also critical to building sustainable businesses.  


Excellent biosecurity practices protect our natural environment and reduce the risk of diseases, weeds or pests impacting your farming profits.

Learn the biosecurity risks

Animal care – wintering

Effective wintering supports the health and well-being of your animals while minimising your environmental impact.

More wintering resources

A strong workforce

Dairying relies on people, and our sector isn’t attracting or keeping enough workers. Based on With widespread collaboration across our sector, we built The Great Futures in Dairying Plan, which sets out how we can attract, retain and grow our workforce on farms over the next decade.

More on the Great Futures in Dairying Plan