Dairy farmers 'unfairly pilloried'

03:09, Jul 04 2013
Federated Farmers' dairy leader Willy Leferink
SPEAKING OUT: Federated Farmers' dairy leader Willy Leferink.

Politicians, academics and the news media neglect urban pollution but highlight any dairy spills, Federated Farmers' dairy leader Willy Leferink says.

Academics and politicians make "outrageous soundbites" about the dairy industry but were quiet when Wellington city accidentally put 6.2 million litres of treated effluent into its harbour, he told the federation's conference in Ashburton.

The Wellington spill was followed by another in the Hutt River and news the Porirua Harbour was in decline.

"The common theme here is an absence of cows. So why is it that when a farmer or a farming company is convicted, I get heaps of media calls? These farmers are named, shamed and pilloried, even on television.

"When it isn't cows, sheep, goats or farm animals, but a council instead, who is being held accountable?

"One answer comes courtesy of [Greens MP] Eugenie Sage, who tried to blame poor drinking water all on dairying. What next?"

In Ashburton, surrounded by cows, the water was "topnotch".

"Down in Southland, all water there met the standard for bacteria, but not so up in Martinborough, which, correct me if I am wrong, is known more for wine than milk.

"How could councils get away with daily breaching their resource consents if justice was meant to be even-handed," he asked.

Farmers could not use "systems failure" as a "get-out-of-jail-free card" but councils did with almost no critical comment from the media or high-profile academics.

Leferink also attacked Fish & Game for pulling out of negotiations over a new dairying clean water accord, questioning if the hunting and fishing body knew what the word sustainable meant.

Regional councils were next to feel Leferink's wrath. The councils had received the Government's message about applying control on freshwater management but "somehow missed the memo" about doubling export income.

"Doubling our exports would give these roosters heaps of money to work on decent outcomes for freshwater management. Money gives you choices, just as a lack of it robs you of choices."

Policymakers had an "unhealthy obsession with nitrates, lawyers and the Environment Court". This had led to the use of the nitrification inhibitor DCD on farms and it had showed up in low doses in milk.

"DCD was 'green tech' to the Greens' Russel Norman and ministers at the time, but at no stage were our customers asked if they shared our obsession.

"If we had bothered to ask our customers what was important to them, we would have discovered words like 'safe,' 'wholesome', 'nutritious' and 'trustworthy'."

Regulation like the Resources Management Act had been hijacked by bureaucrats and lawyers, he said.

"Why don't we re-survey the world to ensure we have the best possible planning system?

"I mean, the RMA wasn't one of the commandments handed down to Moses, was it? It is a document designed by lawyers for lawyers when lawyers were still affordable. Those days are long gone."