Thank you Dr Jacqueline Rowarth. Thank you for calling out the credibility of a survey commissioned by Fish and Game in December, which suggested water quality was the most important issue for New Zealanders.
Thank you also for bringing our attention to the results of a similar survey conducted by the Ministry for the Environment which found that the issues really of importance to the majority were hospitals, housing and reducing waste.
Interestingly, improving water quality was a concern to 11 per cent, which is a very large jump downwards from the 80 per cent we heard Fish and Game report. It certainly puts in to question the validity of surveys such as this one, commissioned by anti-farming lobby groups in an attempt to give some credibility to the farming hate speak they continue to preach.
I became interested in water quality issues when my dairy effluent consent came up for renewal about 15 years ago. I was lucky with timing and found myself talking to a forward-thinking regional council employee, who began my education in water quality practices, and the possibilities for change.
This meeting was the catalyst to a wealth of continual on-farm changes, and cemented water quality improvements as a permanent focus of our farm management plan.
Our farm’s water quality journey has also sparked an ever-growing personal interest to seek out new information and advice and expand my knowledge base where I can. It is also because of this personal investment the anti-dairying messages and suggestions about land use change, and reducing cow numbers, make my blood boil.
Wouldn’t it be great if the misleading statistics and general anti-farming retort was replaced with messages about science and reality? Ask the questions and take a level-headed approach to the answers. I’ll go first:
1. Can we make New Zealand rivers and lakes more swimmable by reducing cow numbers? Yes, we can. Dairy farming does have a negative impact on the environment and most, if not all, dairy farmers know that.
2. Will reducing cow numbers in New Zealand make all rivers and lakes swimmable? No, it won’t There are many and varied causes that make New Zealand rivers and lakes unsuitable for swimming at times.
3. Does the dairy industry contribute to the economic and social wellbeing of New Zealand? Yes, it does. As a trading nation, New Zealand needs to earn income from overseas so we can have the standard of living we enjoy, the standard of education, healthcare, social welfare and infrastructure that we largely expect and take for granted.
4. How bad is our water quality? That depends on what, where, when and how often you measure it. There are many ways of measuring water quality, and it varies throughout the year. In fact, a number of Horizons Regional Council reports show that water quality is improving in the region. But it is of a state that warrants our attention? Dairy farmers have, and are, playing their part in attempting to continue that improvement. It would be good if all Kiwis understood and acknowledged that, and committed to do their bit as well. Water quality improvement is something we all need to be involved in and feel proud of.
5. If we reduce New Zealand’s income by downsizing the dairy industry, where do we get the replacement income from to maintain our standard of living? While we currently enjoy a high standard of living, we can all identify areas that need improvement. Downsizing dairy will mean less resources the Government will have to invest in those areas needing it. Services will reduce unless the income lost is replaced by something else. Services like those we actually care most about, like hospitals, housing and reducing waste.
* Murray Holdaway is the dairy section chairman for Manawatū/Rangitīkei Federated Farmers.