Bludging farmers behind New Zealand’s top public concern

Rachel Young reports

Water issues are top of Kiwi minds when asked what the most important problem facing the country’s environment is.

The triennial Public Perceptions of New Zealand’s Environment: 2013 survey found water-related issues were perceived to be the most important problem facing the environment.

Respondents indicated that growth in production and consumption, as well as an intensification of activities including farming and forestry were putting increasing pressure on the environment.

Rivers, lakes, and groundwater were the worst-managed environments mainly because of negative perceptions concerning the management of farm effluent and runoff.

Until farming shoulders the true operating cost, and stops handing it off to the rest of us as a time bomb to be dealt with later, they are essentially corporate welfare recipients.  

Report co-author Ken Hughey said water was the top issue for New Zealanders.

Fifty-six per cent of respondents believed farming was the main cause of fresh water damage, compared with about 26 per cent in the 2000 survey.

“That increase has been consistent every single year,” he said. “There’s more evidence of people being concerned about issues around farming.”

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said there was no question farming had an impact on the environment, and in some areas the “pendulum has gone too far”.

“Farmers are absolutely stepping up to these concerns with a lot of work around finding better solutions so that we can continue farming profitably . . . But with a smaller environmental impact.”

You know that by the time Federated Farmers agrees that farmers are essentially taking the piss, that even they can no longer spin the situation.

Clean it up and shoulder the true cost  of operating your business.


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  • Truth lies

    Why stop at farmers, many industries (packaging, oil, forestry) rely on the socialisation of pollution costs to maximise their profits. But careful, we may be seen as greenies if we do not agree with the capitalistic blinkered current view.

    • surfisup

      Because farming is NZ’s biggest industry with country wide impact. Sounds like a good place to start by me.

      • TreeCrusher

        Well, towns and cities around NZ have been polluting the rivers and estuaries around them for much longer. So how about we start there? Or is this reverse NIMBY. I wonder how keen people would be to “clean up water quality” if the true cost to deal with a cities pollution in our water ways was imposed on the rates bill over night.

  • toryboy

    The problem with these sorts of surveys is they are answered out of ignorance by people who are seldom either on or anywhere near a farm and therefore have no idea of the true situation.

    Just because Wussel says something 1001 times doesn’t make it true – and the Greens will never, ever, ever, ever say farming is not hurting the environment due to their preconceived agenda.

    All these concerns are lies. Simply untrue.

    Farming is having virtually no ill effects on water.

    In case anyone is hard of hearing I shall repeat the TRUTH of the matter – farming is having no ill effects on water.

    Just go to a farm (for the first time in your life?) and see for yourself; kindly show the farmer the pollution he is causing – you will be unable to do so because it isn’t happening.

    The average New Zealander’s knowledge of farms is similar to their knowledge of NASA’s space program to Mars; should “Mrs Brown from Mt Roskill” also tell them the facts of life?

    • cows4me

      Fucking oath toryboy.

      • kehua

        But the greens said ………………….the world is flat.

    • Honcho

      Agreed in part, for the most part what you are saying is completely true, good farmers, and most are, look after their land, their district, their community. I am sick to death of every single dairy farmer in this country being tarred by the same brush.

      There are bad farmers, and bad farms, just as there are people who use firearms to control pests and stock the freezer there are those who use them to hold up liquor stores and dairys, we should not be blaming responsible firearm owners, just as we should not be blaming dairy farmers, who for the majority are responsible.
      We should be blaming pieces of human scum like this;
      Everyone in the area knows who he is, has a record of breaches going back well over a decade, and will never change, selfish people are everywhere, some of them want to get booze and smokes without paying for them damn the consequences, one other runs a dairy farm between tuamarina and rarangi.

    • surfisup

      You’re bonkers.

      Farmers chuck down their fertiliser and it ends up in the waterways. A lot of cow poo also ends up in the waterways. Unless you treat the stuff like human waste it eventually ends up sloshing around the environment.

      This was OK when there were just a few grass munchers, but now we have massive herds of cows spraying vast amounts of untreated shit everywhere and you think it has no effect?

      I would have to disagree, and so would most environmental scientists. Sure, you can try to minimise the impact but there is a growing impact.

      • toryboy

        All of that would be valid…. except it isn’t actually true.

        You people simply make things up – repeat it 1000 times – and townies (who have no idea either way) start to believe it.

        Farming has existed since the very beginning of time and isn’t it curious that for thousands and thousands and thousands of years none of this was a problem…..until 7:01pm on election night 1999 when the Greens got elected to Parliament! HAHAHAHAHA!!!

      • David Broome

        You just answered your own ignorance. Chuck cow poo down a river and cop a six-figure fine and a criminal prosection. Whereas a mate doing an iron man in the Waitemata had to dodge ‘floaters’.

        Here’s the facts:

        The number of dairy abatement notices fell from 537 in 2008-09 to 290 in 2012-13.

        Dairy infringement notices also fell from 500 to 221 over the same period. While there are 12,000 dairy herds a total of 34 farmers were
        prosecuted in 2012-13.

        Putting this into perspective are the 2012-13 national crime statistics, where 821.2 crimes were recorded for every 10,000 Kiwis.

    • Andrewj

      Im a farmer, if you want I can take you for a road trip and show you some pollution. The average sheep and beef farmer no, intensive beef and dairy, no doubt about it.
      Its going to be a big problem if people like you keep your head in the sand much longer.

      • toryboy

        My home in Southland is on a farm; my neighbours have farms; most of my relatives have farms – as do their neighbours and I am yet to see a single incident of pollution whatsoever.

        What happens is the socialists and greenies just make it all up – these claims simply are not true…(no matter how many times the Greenies mention them)

        • Andrewj

          I have 3 large feedlots above me and they are causing chaos.

          For years I thought like you, now I don’t

  • cows4me

    Blah, blah, blah blah,, for fucks sake give it a break. “Shoulder the true costs” translation, all us socialist townie bastards have decided that farmers are making to much money so they should be giving us some.

  • rockape

    Yes and hunters need to get out wit magnets and recover all that steel shot, god knows the damage that iron oxide may cause. The damage bullets may do to trees. Yes the Greens could end so much of our fun!

  • surfisup

    Farming is certainly damaging the environment…. sea lettuce has become a huge problem in the bay or plenty.

    People have noticed an explosion in the amount of this stuff washing up on our beaches and it directly correlates with fertiliser run off.

    So, farmers are raking in their profit but socialising their pollution.

    • Michelle

      Um what are you on, obviously never been near a farm in your life sea lettuce has nothing to do with farming go and have a look at all the ships that come into the country from goodness knows where then you might find that

      lf you walked a mile in a farmers shoes then you might just see there is alot of work and all the money we are supposed to make doesn’t even come in the gate, just because the MSM says it does, doesn’t mean it is gospel

      • surfisup

        Sea lettuce is a naturally occurring seaweed and has nothing to do with foreign ships.

        Older residents say this was not such problem in the past.

        I don’t know if farming causes it, but, it does seem to correlate with farming.

        • BigDes

          Right, so in one post you’ve gone from stating a fact to admitting you don’t know. You are exactly the reason farmers take no notice of your ranting. Now run along little fella and come back with credible links to factual research. Until then STFU!

        • David Broome

          You must be a troll. If you are just misguided then this Tauranga City Council publlication will help you ( Maybe it is time to get the foodbanks into Sea Lettuce as here’s soem great facts:

          • Sea lettuce is a native algae

          • It can be eaten

          • Studies show its occurrence is a natural event

          • The abundance of sea lettuce in Tauranga Harbour is monitored every two months

          • Sea lettuce blooms are linked to climatic conditions

          • Nuisance bloom events occur periodically over summer months

          • Bloom events can have undesirable effects on marine life and recreation

          In other words lets blame a native algae bloom that can be eaten by humans that’s caused by climatic conditions on farming. Enought said.

    • Patrick

      Ever wondered what happens to your towns sewage?

      Tauranga City’s sewage outfall discharges into the harbour near the Sulphur Point marina. Treated discharges of nutrients from this outfall have contributed to outbreaks of the nuisance plant sea lettuce Ulva sp. in the southern harbour. Several local authority rubbish tips on the coast discharge leachates directly into the harbour.

      When will you townies start recognising the damage you do & take preventative measures like those documented below?

      Federated Farmers applauds a recent Bay of Plenty Regional Council report showing water quality improvement in the Rotorua Lakes catchment has improved significantly.

      Doesn’t suit WO’s agenda to tell the truth on this one does it.

  • Michelle

    we were at a local beach the other day and there is a sign saying water is not safe because of livestock pollution FFS there is a heap of houses with sewerage tanks and no stock for miles, get real

    lf you go to Lang’s beach you will see a no swimming sign because of sewerage and guess what not a bloody beast for miles and miles

    lt is time we all stepped up to the mark and stop listening to the Greens who are sucking you guys with the fancy slogans and gutless councils who know where the biggest vote is and they don’t want to hike the rates up to pay for all your poorly maintained sewerage systems that need upgrading and just keep pumping it into the waterways and blaming farmers

    Yes farmers do have to do their bit, but they are doing theirs so how about townies doing theirs as well?

    we are all in this together so squabbling among ourselves isn’t going to solve it

    • rockape

      Yes in pristine Nelson the beach closed for weeks because of polution from sewage.

  • Michelle

    OH and shock horror for you townies l am drinking the water straight from the creek that runs through our place, our whole family does and we are all very healthy

    l check it every day and l can see the bottom but when it floods you want to see what comes off the side of the road, we end up with everyone else’s rubbish thrown out of car windows including dirty nappies that is where alot of the pollution comes from

    • thor42

      Good on you, Michelle!

      I’ll support the farmers too.

    • ReelingBack

      Agree. I have been a white water kayaker for years. What that entails is heading inland to the headwaters of a river every few weeks then spending the weekend paddling down it. I’m not good so I tip over a lot and sometime just roll over in a pool to cool down. All of the inland water I have been in is pristine.

      • TayheiNotts

        I understand that the Waikato River at Hamilton is now so free of effluent that Aussie tennis coaches are queueing up to swim in it.

        • ReelingBack

          Good one TH.
          Unfortunately I’ve never paddled the Waikato so I couldn’t possibly opine.

  • surfisup

    Incidentally, question the opinion of retired farmers who’ve been out of the game for 10 years or so. They sing a different tune.

    • cows4me

      Rubbish, environmental laws and procedures are vastly different from what they were even in the short time span of ten years. I would challenge you to come and check out my farm and point out where the pollution is, hint, you can’t do it. It’s fucking easy to jump on the backs of the 80,000 farmers in New Zealand, we have no political power but by God do the townie bastards love our money. The only reason cities are still polluting is that they haven’t manage to steal enough of the rural communities wealth, but they are working on it.

      • toryboy

        Oh so true cows4me – the entire debate is false and made up; you can see how Bridgecorp managed to steal half a billion bucks if the average NZer is THIS dumb! hahahaha!!

        • cows4me

          It is false and it is made up, so true. Serves two purposes. Placates the numerous useful idiots in the cities to look the other way while they shit in their own nests. “Polluters must pay”, simply a catch cry to rally the many to take from the few.

  • Patrick

    When will you townies pay the true costs of the environmental damage you do? You are bludging townies, discharging your filth into the waterways & environment of New Zealand. Clean up your act. You dump untreated sewage into the harbours of NZ every time it rains.

    WaterCare planning to spend close to a billion dollars over 14 years on three significant wastewater underground projects in our backyard. They are now asking for consent to continue dumping sewage in our harbour. The breakdown of the spend is as follows; Central Connector Project, costing $800 million from Western Springs to Mangere with estimated 6-12 sewage discharges per year. Waterfront interceptor costing $135 million from Western Springs to an overflow at Coxs Bay and Point Erin Reserve. The Newmarket Gully Project costing $12 million from Newmarket Park to Hobson Bay estimated to have 20 discharges per year. – See more at:

    Wastewater is the biggest waste by volume in New Zealand. Approximately 1.5 billion litres of domestic wastewater is discharged into the environment daily.

    You cannot even be bothered monitoring your filth

    The Ministry has been aware for some years of the difficulties that have been faced by territorial and regulatory authorities in setting wastewater monitoring programmes that are consistent and appropriate

    Filthy townies doesn’t suit the WO agenda.

  • Michael_l_c

    The answer to waterway pollution by farms easy, fisheries have a good model, SEIZURE.

    The true cost of depleting aquifers & rivers? How much to farmers pay per cubic meter or thousand cubic meters. Farmers will argue that townies pay for the supply system not the water, which is correct but town supply generally comes from reservoirs or carefully controlled takes from rivers & aquifers. Once farmers drain an aquifer or river how long will it take to refill? Perhaps farmers should pay the true future value of their water take rather than being permitted to take & run.

    • Patrick

      Yes & when it was proposed that townies pay a discharge tax based on the water supply meter you all went mental. When will you townies recognise the damage you do & pay the true cost of your existence? Is it acceptable that you discharge your raw sewage into the waterways because you do not pay enough for infrastructure to contain your filth? Pay more taxes, clean up your mess. Bet not too many support that do they – better to have a crack at some other bloke, like a supposedly rich farmer.

      • Michael_l_c

        Sorry patrick but u need to check your facts. Discharge is included in the water bill. Even if u water the garden you pay for the water going down the drain, even though it doesn’t. It then goes to a very expensive treatment facility that we pay for.
        So what are you really talking about.

        • Patrick

          You pay for the usage, you do not pay for disposing of grey water etc. There were proposals to make you pay for both. I believe that has happened for businesses in Auckland but certainly not for residential customers. You need a meter on your sewage connection as well.
          As for your very expensive treatment plant it obviously isn’t expensive enough because every time it rains the treatment plants cannot cope & you dump your sewage into the waterways & harbours of NZ. Disgraceful behaviour, according to WO you should pay more taxes & clean up your mess. Or are we lacking consistency in the argument?

          • Michael_l_c

            Sorry patrick, as I said u really do need to check your facts again. The charge for sewerage is included in the water bill. So water in and water out is paid for. The water meter records the water coming in and waste charges are based on that. Simple. Very little goes into the harbour & the pipes are being upgraded.

          • Michael_l_c

            Patrick you are completely right, dumping sewerage in any waterway is totally unacceptable. We can agree on this

          • Patrick

            Yes but just to clarify Michael there are massive amounts of sewage & filthy stormwater( from motorway/roads run off) dumped into the harbours of NZ by most regional councils. This may be done for “pragmatic” reasons but the point I am trying to make is pollution is the responsibility of all NZders not just some crusade against farmers by WO. Still waiting to see WO’s real agenda but I suspect his mate Simon Lusk is playing a large part.

            WaterCare planning to spend close to a billion dollars over 14 years on three significant wastewater underground projects in our backyard. They are now asking for consent to continue dumping sewage in our harbour. The breakdown of the spend is as follows; Central Connector Project, costing $800 million from Western Springs to Mangere with estimated 6-12 sewage discharges per year. Waterfront interceptor costing $135 million from Western Springs to an overflow at Coxs Bay and Point Erin Reserve. The Newmarket Gully Project costing $12 million from Newmarket Park to Hobson Bay estimated to have 20 discharges per year. – See more at:

            As for the charge for disposal of waste – there was a proposal floating about to split out the charge, i.e. make you pay more than you currently do.

  • thor42

    It may be the public’s top concern on the *environment* but it’s probably not their top concern of all.

    The headline is misleading.

    Apart from that, I’ll stand up and *support* farmers.

    They are not bludgers. There is no getting around the fact that if it weren’t for them, this country would have gone down the dunny long ago.

    Both my brothers used to be dairy-farmers in the Wairarapa. They have now long since left farming but one of them got hit with a drought, floods and then another drought (back in the late 70s). That is bloody tough going.

    I get tired of the potshots at farmers. I’m sure that the overwhelming majority of them are doing what they can to minimise effects on water quality.

    I look forward to a long series of articles on how the sewage outfalls of towns affect our coastlines.

    The blog would be much-improved without the mudslinging at farmers and red-headed people (and no, I’m not red-headed). Just a constructive suggestion….

  • David Broome

    Were you not last week being nice to farmers for creating a good export outcome (or was that the week before)? We see regular service has now resumed.

    The key word WO is that this is about perception versus reality – the MfE’s latest ten-year water quality review showed 90% of NZ’s freshwater is stable to improving BTW here’s the link ( I bet this will be news to many for being an inconvenient truth it was largely ignored in the media.

    So who’s right. The MfE’s actual water quality or what the public perceives is happening?

    When was the last time you saw 3 News lead with “20,000 kilometres of waterways now fenced by Fonterra farmers” or One News leading with “Taranaki Regional Council boasts farming, mining and excellent water quality Reporter X finds out how…”

    Solutions like riparian plantings, stock exclusion, irrigators using ground sensors etc are hard issues to get the media to cover whereas they’ll follow a Green MP up the creek in a Kayak .

    If you read the survey you’ll see most people think animal waste is dumped direct into the nearest waterway (see here for a good outline of what farmers do: The public’s perception (and I wager yours too) is that when they see dairy washdown going into a drain they think its going direct into water as opposed to a nutrient pond where its irrigated back to pasture as liquid fertiliser.

    The real issue for farming is diffuse pollution (run off after a heavy rain event). Unsurprisingly there’s a flush of that in autumn but that’s what the Ruataniwha Dam will help solve – the best solution is soil microbiology with green pasture not a dust bowl.

    Perceptions will only change if the media (and bloggers) take up invitations to go on-farm and see for themselves.

    • john Doe

      Well written. I have a small lifestyle block bordering a harbour. I hand fertilise near drains and all drains are fenced off. On the other side of the harbour the local effluent pond is pumped via pipe directly into the water way.

      • David Broome

        Amazing how the environmental lobbyists (and I put WO into that camp) never bang on about treated sewerage and industrial waste going into the sea or a river (Chch pumps it 3km out into Pegasus Bay). You may remove the Ecoli but the N, P etc all remain.

    • Patrick

      I wonder if Federated Farmers (& or Fonterra) have considered running campaigns showing the truth of the matter?

  • terrynaki

    whale oil, your piss is going into the sea as well,clean yours up to

  • David Broome

    Here is Federated Farmers media release:

    Federated Farmers believes the nation’s perception of the environment is at a turning point, looking at the Lincoln lecturer’s Public Perception’s report for 2013.

    “Just as it has taken time to see signs of improvements in some areas for water quality, it will take time for the public perception to also turn around,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

    “I am not surprised the report shows a shift towards a negative public perception of the environment as the significant efforts underway do take a while to bear fruit.

    “Most farmers are also wonderful stewards of the environment, but as clearly shown in the recent PCE Report the challenge has been the extraordinary speed of dairying growth over the last decade. Intensive farming puts pressure on water as does population growth in the cities. We just have to get better at managing the impacts.

    “We all want clean water and much more effort is now going into better managing the impacts of farming with the results starting to show. I am confident this will lead to a turn in public perceptions within the next few years.

    “We have had lots of negative press around water quality and the challenge we face around this is that the positive stories are often too technical or difficult to report.
    “You will understand better if I list some: riparian plantings, stock exclusion, sediment traps, on-farm effluent systems, precision agriculture for fertiliser application, ground sensors, GPS- based irrigators, better pasture and animal genomics, as well as stand-off pads, not to mention herd homes/wintering barns. Just recently, Fonterra announced that their farmers had fenced off over 20,000 kilometres of New Zealand waterways.

    “As a result we are now seeing reports showing improvements in water quality with the Ministry for the Environment’s report on our river conditions, this year, showing 90 percent of our waterways either stable or improving. This does not mean that we have got everything right, but it does mean we are there working it out and investing in our environmental future,” concluded Mr Wills.

  • 2bluemoons

    Why don’t some farmers fence off the creeks and rivers that run through their property?
    Cause it’s cheaper to let the cows have a drink when they want,
    Saves on costs of trough’s, irrigation gear, power for the pump to get it there, manual labour, when they could be saving for a new non gay ute, instead.

    Why upgrade the farm gear, to run effectively, if the chances of you being caught emptying effluent into the drains are close to nil. Unless that environmentally friendly neighbour dobs you in.

    Weekly dairy farm inspections
    Weekly water tests at waterway adjacent to farm
    Farmer to cover the true cost of operating their business and pay all these costs.

  • Ururoa

    Just got back from a week camping at a DOC camping ground that I have been going to for years. New signs at the stream next to the campground: “No bathing”. Farmer’s cows wandering around in the stream, defecating everywhere, no fencing, no riparian planting, heavy erosion of stream banks where cows (or the farmer?) have carved access to the stream.

    Stream used to be a good source of eels and koura; kids used to go and feed the eels and catch koura. No sign of them now. Campground manager said since farmer had upped stock numbers they could no longer draw water from the stream anymore and over the dry months the stream is now fetid and prone to algal blooms in ponds (never got that way before, just dried up a bit).

    Yep, SOME farmers like to take care of waterways. But many are only concerned with themselves and their profit, at the expense of the lifestyle of our grandchildren.