Federated Farmers distances itself from 'farming doesn't pollute rivers' comments

Federated Farmers' leadership is distancing itself from a rogue spokesman who claimed farming has no impact on water pollution. 

Wairarapa dairy chair Chris Engel made the comments while being interviewed about the Greens' water policy, which would put a halt on new dairy farms and impose a levy on nitrogen pollution.

National president Katie Milne told Newshub that Mr Engel's views did not appear to reflect that of the wider organisation. She says she'll be speaking to him to be sure of the context.

"[Mr Engel's] comments are his own by the looks," she said. "I'm not entirely sure what he's referring to exactly."

Ms Milne says it's unfair to characterise farmers as uncaring polluters.

"We have seen massive shifts in what was acceptable practice from decades ago where raw effluent was discharged to water without treatment.

"Now most goes back to the land to be added back into the nutrient cycle to grow grass - therefore [there is] no pollution of that type anymore."

Last month, Ms Milne announced that Federated Farmers was "committed to swimmable rivers for our children and grandchildren.

"And when we say swimmable, we mean swimmable".

Freshwater ecologist Mike Joy of Massey University says the science is clear - the biggest impact on the waterways of New Zealand has been dairy intensification.

"There's no doubt - and I can quote you many scientific papers that prove this - the biggest impact on our rivers over the past 20 years is from dairy intensification."