Federated Farmers criticised by clean water group for attacks over water charging

Last updated 16:33 14/09/2017

Massey University student Marnie Prickett says New Zealanders want clean water for everyone.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle.

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Federated Farmers' attacks on Labour's water charging proposals are alarmist and out of step with most New Zealanders, say clean water campaigners.

"A couple of weeks ago, Federated Farmers was saying that they wanted to make all rivers swimmable," says Choose Clean Water spokeswoman Marnie Prickett​.

"Now they are against attempts to limit water use and they are supportive of public spending on irrigation schemes that would put more pollution into already suffering rivers and lakes. Their protests make no sense."

She said water charges proposed by Labour were about encouraging farmers to use water wisely.

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The clean water group said Federated Farmers' idea that water charges would cripple the industry was alarmist as no Government would ever introduce charges at a rate that would cripple one of the country's major industries.  

"Many farmers, and others in the agriculture sector, now realise that dairy farming has taken too much water out of rivers and put too much pollution back into them. And New Zealanders all over the country have said that this must change.  So why does [Federated Farmers] attack every concrete proposal for making things better?

"Our rivers and lakes are in a desperate situation. Labour's water policy is a response to the 83 per cent of New Zealanders who say the Government must do more to reduce water pollution."

Prickett said Federated Farmers wanted business as usual.

But Federated Farmers water spokesman, Chris Allen said it was not business as usual, as farmers were striving to improve water quality.

"We're all in this together.  Farmers can't fix it all alone and some of the most pollution comes from urban centres."

He is against any charges on farmers for water use.

"Farmers support regional towns and city businesses. This will just take the money farmers spend out of the Ashburtons, the West Coast towns, and other regions."

Allen said farmers were already using water efficiently.

"We don't get an unlimited supply and it costs money to pump water.  We are aware of the economics of water use," he said.

Allen said 85 per cent of  water use was in the South Island, and 60 per cent of that was in Canterbury.

"Polluted water is not in those areas.  But farmers are dealing with water quality there.

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"A tax on water is serious.  If we want cleaner water, everyone has to do their bit."

Meanwhile DairyNZ said the Green Party and Labour Party policymakers want to hit dairy farmers with environmental taxes that could cost an average of $18,000 per year for each farm.

For farmers that draw water for irrigation the cost could be in excess of $63,000 per year, said DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle.

 "Our economists calculate that the proposed carbon tax would add an average of $6850 to each farm's costs, the nitrogen pollution tax would add $11,232 per farm – and then there's Labour's proposed water use tax which would add a further $45,000 average for farms irrigating."

 Mackle said if a political party had asked him what the dairy sector wanted from Government, he would have said an economy-wide plan outlining the emission reduction expectations for each sector over the longer term.

"Targeting farmers this severely and swiftly does little to incentivise mitigation, and ignores the hard work farmers have been voluntarily doing themselves to lessen emissions.

- Stuff

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