Survey shows Kiwis dirty on dairying

20:37, Mar 09 2014

The Labour Party says a survey on the impact of dairying showed the government failed to recognise the importance of water quality.

"The survey shows that Kiwis see a clean and green environment as an intrinsic part of who we are with 89 per cent linking their identity to our natural environment," environment spokeswoman Moana Mackey said today.

The survey by Horizon Research, and 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 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.

"Water quality is key to this identity with nine out of 10 adults wanting waterways to be safe for swimming, fishing, and food gathering," she said.

"When it comes to taking responsibility for improving water quality an overwhelming 89 per cent support the view that those who pollute waterways should be made accountable for their restoration, including 88 per cent of National voters, and 72 per cent wanting to see farmers and dairy companies take responsibility for reducing the impact of dairying.

"What the survey does show however is support for the dairy industry, including further growth facilitated by large-scale irrigation schemes, but only if it can be proven that downstream waterways will not be adversely affected. Only 12 per cent supported these schemes going ahead with no qualification."

Mackey said the Government should pull its support for the Hawke's Bay Ruataniwha irrigation scheme.

It was unacceptable that millions of dollars of taxpayers money was going to subsidise a scheme that would make the Tukituki river toxic.

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.

The survey was conducted in November, and among its findings are:

- 37 per cent of respondents said the economy was too heavily dependent on dairy farming and 31 per cent said the growth of dairying and intensification had gone too far.

- 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 said the dairy industry's environmental performance was adversely affecting New Zealand's our global reputation and brand.

- 70 per cent said the expansion of dairy farming had made water quality worse than it was 20 years ago.

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

- 62 per cent said regional councils were conflicted by having responsibility for protecting waterways and for promoting large-scale irrigation schemes.

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


The Dominion Post