Farmers tired of bearing blame

Hamish Walker
Hamish Walker
Farmers are working hard on improving water quality and should be supported, writes Hamish Walker.

It's all farmers' fault didn't you know?

Those fenced-off waterways, new sediment traps, wetlands, all the riparian plantings, not cultivating near waterways, strategically winter grazing and everything else farmers do on-farm to protect the environment, it's still all their fault.

What is it, you ask?

Well, Fish & Game's anti-farming crusade would have you believe it is the water quality issue, one solely caused by farmers.

Those on the coal face, in the communities with any sense, would tell you otherwise

Their head office doesn't seem to want to acknowledge that farmers were the first to put their hands up and say we need to do something about our water quality some years ago, instead pointing the finger saying it's all farmers' fault.

All you have to do is look at Fish & Game's latest Colmar Brunton poll to see how credible they are - or in many cases aren't.

Fish & Game's poll claims New Zealand's top concern is the pollution of lakes and rivers, out of the options given. What I find interesting is the Ministry for the Environment ran a similar poll, where it was ranked 13th.

How is it possible that two surveys, both run by Colmar Brunton with about 1000 people taking part, have such different results.

At the end of last year, I wrote to Fish & Game chief executive Martin Taylor expressing my disappointment in these attacks on our rural sector.

I also asked where his comments were about the part our urban cousins have played in today's water quality.

His answer was urban centres were not in Fish & Game's mandate.

It's funny how the New River Estuary here in Southland is, though.

It's a return to type from Fish & Game as Mr Taylor seems infatuated with carrying on his predecessor's Dirty Dairy campaign.

The One News television piece on the New River Estuary was one of many examples of this.

Despite having the facts in front of them, and seeing for themselves what Environment Southland had said, Fish & Game yet again pointed the blame at farmers.

Environment Southland director of science and information Graham Sevicke-Jones has been quoted as saying the New River Estuary was more unusual as both urban and rural have contributed to its degradation.

There's the wastewater treatment facility, the stormwater which goes in from Invercargill city and I think they also might have forgotten the old rubbish dump right next door.

And if that wasn't a bad enough attack on farmers, last year, in record rainfalls, Fish & Game took photos of sediment runoff, saying Southland and South Otago need to be prepared for an environmental disaster, and sent them to media.

If that's not an opportunist organisation, I don't know what is.

Despite having the facts in front of them, and seeing for themselves what Environment Southland had said, Fish & Game yet again pointed the blame at farmers.

Mr Taylor may pay to remember it is these same farmers who give open access to hunters and fishermen on their private properties, who tend to be Fish & Game licence holders.

More and more farmers themselves are now removing this access and also not buying licences to show Fish & Game they will not be bullied.

While those on the ground for Fish & Game in the local communities want to work with farmers, the hierarchy seems to be off on a whole other tangent.

I hold some hope, though, with some farmers throughout New Zealand being elected on to local Fish & Game councils.

Farmers are working hard on improving water quality and it's time Fish & Game stood beside them and did the same.

-Hamish Walker is the National MP for Clutha-Southland.


This is a blatant political rant where Walker is able to find one estuary which has been degraded by by both rural and urban discharges. The Kaikorai Estuary in Dunedin would be an example of pure urban degradation. However, only 1% of NZ's waterways flow through urban areas!
Walker is correct in saying farmers are upping their game, some farmers, however that doesn't deserve "getting in behind them" as they have still managed to ruin NZ's waterways. Too many cows despite good practices by farmers, lead to degraded waterways and we aren't even all using good practice yet!

There days farmers and hunters are considered by some as strange / if we did not have farmers/ new Zealand would stop/

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