Survey shows Kiwis dirty on dairying

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 08:12 10/03/2014

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More than a third of us believe the country is too reliant on the dairy industry and that the industry's poor performance is affecting our global reputation and brand, according to findings being released today.

The survey by Horizon Research, and funded by Fish & Game, was conducted in November.

Among its findings are:

37 per cent of people say the economy is too heavily dependent on dairy farming and 31 per cent say the growth of dairying and intensification has gone too far.

Only 19 per cent believed the country should continue to grow dairy farming.

31 per cent of people said they would be much less likely to vote for a political party that introduced policies promoting economic growth without being clear on how the party would protect the environment.

55 per cent say the dairy industry's environmental performance is adversely impacting on our global reputation and brand.

70 per cent say the expansion of dairy farming has made water quality worse than it was 20 years ago.

73 per cent say dairy companies should take responsibility for the performance of their contracted suppliers.

62 per cent say regional councils are conflicted by having responsibility for protecting waterways and for promoting large scale irrigation schemes.

Fish & Game NZ chief executive Bryce Johnson said the research showed there was a risk to any political party introducing policies promoting economic growth if they could not guarantee safeguards to protect the environment.

"Of particular interest was the strong overall support (73 per cent) for requiring dairy companies to take formal responsibility for the environmental performance of their contracted suppliers - currently not the case, with the struggling role falling to regional councils funded by ordinary ratepayers," Mr Johnson said.

He said the results would shock many in the agriculture sector where "the long-held presumption has been that farming enjoys the popular support of the wider public".

"That has clearly all changed as a consequence of the bullish attitude of the dairy industry, and while many farmers are doing their best environmentally, the sector has simply gone too far with the industry leadership and regional councils failing to deal with the poor performers.

The research also showed the "overwhelming" (74 per cent) message that people did not want regional councils to allow new agricultural development and expansion "if it restricts public use and makes waterways unsafe for swimming, fishing and food gathering".

"New Zealanders want regional councils to stick to their knitting - protecting natural resources, including freshwater - rather than promoting environmentally destructive infrastructure projects and environmentally unsustainable industry expansion," he said.

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The survey talked to 3134 people aged 18 or over and has an error margin of +/- 1.8 per cent.

- The Dominion Post

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