A survey criticising the impact of intensive agricultural
expansion on the environment has been labelled by farming
groups emotive, unethical, oversimplified and ''just plain
Fish and Game New Zealand yesterday released an independent
survey, Farming and the Environment.
Its chief executive, Bryce Johnson, said while the
organisation's primary interests related to the habitat of
trout and salmon and freshwater angling and game bird
hunting, the survey showed the focus on expanding primary
sector growth, ''whatever the costs'', had put the economy on
a collision course with the environment and public opinion.
''It also exposes that a very clear risk of losing support
exists for political parties which introduce policies
promoting economic growth without guaranteed safeguards to
protect the environment.''
In the survey, 67% said they were prepared to see large-scale
irrigation schemes proceed to help the growth of intensive
dairy farming, but only if ''scientific evidence proves that
measures are in place to ensure downstream waterways will not
be adversely affected'', he said.
It also showed 70% believed expansion of dairy farming had
made the quality of water in New Zealand streams, lakes and
rivers worse than it was 20 years ago and that those who
polluted those waterways should pay to fix the problems.
Federated Farmers chief executive Connor English said the
survey oversimplified the issue and ignored the many changes
and investments farmers had made to protect their
''These emotive comments ... are not helpful.''
Water storage projects such as the Opuha Dam in South
Canterbury had been good for fish, the community and the
economy, he said.
The Government and local government were also making inroads
on water quality issues, which were not just the
responsibility of farmers but all water users.
''We need informed decisions based on objective science, not
surveys based on perceptions.''
DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle said dairy farmers had
boosted environmental investment by 61% this financial year
to $11 million.
It was not surprising the survey painted a negative picture
of public attitudes to dairy farming.
Mr Mackle did not see the survey as ''particularly rigorous
''They are playing politics in an election year and dairy
farmers are the convenient football to kick around,'' he
The industry was already acting on concerns about dairy's
impact in a range of ways.
''Farmers have certainly recognised the need to lift their
game in investing in industry actions above and beyond their
usual on-farm investments ... Farmers are certainly paying
their fair share.''
New Zealand Fertiliser Quality Council chairman Anders
Crofoot said the survey ignored the ''hundreds of millions''
farmers were spending on run-off mitigation, fencing
waterways and nutrient management.
''It is just another example of Fish and Game popping up at
the end of the trout fishing season and pushing an
anti-farming stance that is bordering on obsessional.''
The Farming and the Environment Survey of 3134 respondents
aged 18 and over was commissioned by Fish and Game and
conducted independently by Horizon Research Ltd, with a
margin of error of plus or minus 1.8%.
These include. -
• 89% of New Zealanders link their Kiwi identity to their
• 37% say the economy is too heavily dependent on dairying.
• 31% say the growth of dairying and intensification has gone
• 57% say all waterways should be safe.
• 89% say those who pollute waterways should be made
accountable for their restoration.
• 73% say dairy companies should take responsibility for the
environmental performance of their contracted suppliers.