Fonterra disposal practices probed over 'Lake of Buttermilk' concerns

Buttermilk by-product from Fonterra sites, including Te Rapa (pictured), contributed to the Lake of Buttermilk, according to reports.

An investigation into Fonterra's buttermilk disposal practices has been launched in New Zealand in response to concerns about the size of a dumping site dubbed the 'Lake of Buttermilk'.

Waikato Regional Council, which works to protect the area's natural resources, is looking into the circumstances that led to the disposal of buttermilk - a dairy processing by-product - on a farm near Taupo, according to reports from New Zealand.

An earlier investigation by Waikato Regional Council determined that the lake did not pose an immediate threat, but it is now probing how it was initially created.

The reports added that in recent weeks, trucks have been transporting the by-product from Fonterra plants in Te Rapa and Edgecumbe to the farm.

In a statement sent to, Fonterra pinpointed high milk processing demand in October as a key driver of this recent traffic.

It was unable, however, to disclose the volume of by-products disposed of in this manner.

Around 30 disposal sites

“During October we are processing high volumes of milk,” said Robert Spurway, the director of Fonterra’s operations and logistics network.

“All of our plants are running smoothly, we are working hard to process all of the milk and have not disposed of any raw milk. We have contingencies in place, these include changing our product mix to process the maximum amount of raw milk and disposing of by-products under consent from councils."

“The businesses and landowners that receive the by-product, under consent from council, include a mix of landowners, wastewater treatment plants, piggeries and calf rearers," said Spurway.

Fonterra revealed that it has around 30 sites that it delivers processing by-products, such as buttermilk, to the Waikato, Northland, and Taranaki regions of New Zealand. More than half of the farms used are operated by calf rearers, it added.

Fonterra coal mine decision “disappointing”

News of the investigation comes just days after Waikato Regional Council granted Glencoal Energy, a subsidiary of Fonterra, permission to build and operate a coal mine near Mangatawhiri. Any coal mined from the site will be used as fuel at Fonterra’s processing plants in Hautapu, Waitoa, and Te Awamutu.

Slamming the Council’s decision, the New Zealand Green Party said that the establishment of a coal mine at Mangatawhiri by Glencoal undermines Fonterra’s green image.

“Fonterra depends on a stable climate for it agricultural exports and markets its products to the world as clean and pure, yet is about to dig up more climate-polluting fossil fuels to power its plants,” said Green Party mining spokesperson, Catherine Delahunty.

“Fonterra is missing a great opportunity to restore some faith in its reputation for producing clean, green and safe food by moving to renewable energy for use in its production plants.”

“Furthermore, this decision is disappointing for local people who realize that this mine will industrialize their rural community,” Delahunty added.

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