Dairy industry hits back at survey

LIAM HYSLOP
Last updated 14:13 10/03/2014

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The dairy industry has hit back at a "lame duck" survey which says they are damaging New Zealand's international reputation through a poor environmental record.

A survey by Horizon Research, funded by Fish & Game and released yesterday, showed 70 per cent of respondents said the expansion of dairy farming had made water quality worse than it was 20 years ago.

More than a third of respondents believed the country was too reliant on the dairy industry and more than half believed the industry's poor performance was affecting our global reputation and brand.

But Federated Farmers environment spokesman Ian Mackenzie said the survey missed the fact that much of what the public asked for in the survey about policies has already been done.

"In the Fish & Game survey, people are concerned that the government needs to put polices in place.

"That has been done through the national policy statement on freshwater and the national objective framework.

"Given the government has put in place everything the respondents said they wanted, but were not aware of before they commented, I consider this poll to be a bit of a lame duck."

Diary NZ sustainability strategy and investment team leader Rick Pridmore said although dairy farmers had contributed to some pollution, they were not the only contributors.

"Water quality in New Zealand, where it has got worse, has got worse from a large variety of sources.

"Dairy is one of the causes, dairy is not in denial, but we are just part of the issue."

Pridmore said parts of the survey asked people questions about a topic they knew little about.

"There is one thing surveying for who should be Prime Minister, that is an opinion.

"A lot of us, on the vast majorities of subjects, we're not experts on them and go by what we hear and read."

Dairy farmers contribute more than $5 million per year to help fund research by councils trying to implement the national policy statement on freshwater, Pridmore said.

This included $1m to help improve Waituna Lagoon in Southland and $1.2m to assist Waikato Regional Council with its waterways.

Individual farmers worked hard to ensure their own farms were environmentally friendly, Pridmore said.

"Everybody has a nutrient management plan, everybody has a better effluent system and those aren't cheap, those can be $200,000."

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On the point of New Zealand's reliance on the dairy industry, Pridmore said dairy farmers do not get up in the morning to try and make New Zealand more reliant on them.

"They wake up in the morning to help make money for the country and them.

"The fact that they have been successful, do you want to penalise them?"

No dairy farmer wanted that success to come at the expense of the environment, Pridmore said.

Any industry the size of the dairy industry would always leave a bigger environmental footprint than smaller industries, he said.

"If anything was the size of dairy it would have a bigger environmental footprint.

"If we had a population of 20 million people urban discharges would be the biggest thing affecting our water quality."

- The Dominion Post

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