High country farmers are at the cutting edge of the national debate over dairy expansion, Labour's agriculture spokesman, Damien O'Connor, says.
Speaking to around 140 farmers at a Federated Farmers high country field day near Omarama on Tuesday, Mr O'Connor urged farmers to have a vision for the high country.
The tour through a green and brown landscape had answered his questions about dairy farm developments and irrigation, he told the group, which included Environment Canterbury chairwoman Dame Margaret Bazley.
Dairying returned $14,000/ha, 10 times the gross income of pastoral land.
"All of New Zealand is looking at where the dairy industry goes and where it stops, and you're at the cutting edge of it here. At the moment we're almost totally dependent for growth on the dairy industry, and on China. We're a one-trick pony.
"People are charging on with investments, not knowing what will come through the door."
Labour would be looking at a cost on water, possibly per unit, for farming and power generation, Mr O'Connor said.
Earlier in the day the vice-president of Federated Farmers New Zealand, Dr William Rolleston, criticised NZ Fish and Game's stance on dairying and the environment. "I'm disappointed in the rhetoric from Fish and Game. They're alienating farmers from the rest of the country and this is not the way to go forward."
Fish and Game representatives were invited to the field day, but none attended.
"We should have a whole heap of people from Fish and Game here. The conversation starts here, out on the ground, in the paddock."
Mr O'Connor urged high country farmers to create a vision for their area.
- The Timaru Herald