Major new study reveals attitude to climate change in rural sector

New research shows farmers are focused on sustainability and the impacts of climate change more than ever.

The research is from a survey by Nielsen Research, commissioned by the Ministry for Primary Industries through the Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change Research programme.

The results show that 92 percent of farmers are focused on making their farm more environmentally sustainable, up from 78 percent in the last survey of 2009.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said the result was heartening.

"Some of the specific actions farmers mentioned were riparian/shelter planting, waterway control, improved fertiliser management and more efficient irrigation systems," he said.

"This gives us a really valuable understanding of what is front of mind for farmers," said O'Connor.

Damien O'Connor said he was heartened by the survey results.
Damien O'Connor said he was heartened by the survey results. Photo credit: Newshub

He said it was however, slightly disheartening that only 23 percent of farmers anticipate an increased focus on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in the next five years.

"That us something for us all to work on."

Minister for Climate Change James Shaw said that the results of the survey are consistent with expectations.

"The survey shows that farmers have a better understanding of what they are able to do on-farm to be more environmentally sustainable, with the exception of greenhouse gas emissions reduction  an area where we know farmers feel they need more information and advice," he said.

He said a Biological Emissions Reference Group (BERG) report suggested that there were a number of solutions emerging, but that the situation varies from farm-to-farm, so solutions need to be tailored.

"That's why we are now investing in developing that advice and integrated farm planning tools," Shaw said. 

"We need to support farmers and growers to transition to sustainable land-use through planning and informed decision-making."

Key findings of the study:


-92 percent of farmers focus on making their farms more environmentally sustainable. Specific actions mentioned show an increase, notably riparian/shelter planting, waterway control, improved fertiliser management and more efficient irrigation systems (up from 78 percent in 2009).

- 63 percent of farmers express interest in further information or advice about improving resilience to climate change. Managing severe weather events such as droughts, floods, and harsh winters is most commonly mentioned.

- Half of farmers think their farm and business is moderately or majorly impacted by current climate or severe weather patterns  this has not changed since 2009 (52 percent vs 51 percent). But the proportion of farmers reporting no impact at all has halved, from 19% to 10%.

-59 percent anticipate a moderate or major impact over the next 20 years.

-46 percent saying that clear government policy guidelines will help them take action.

-27 pecent of farmers have placed a moderate or major focus on reducing their GHG emissions in the past 5 years (compared with 31 percent doing so in 2009).    

-46 percent of farmers have actively sought information about land management practices or climate change issues in the last 12 months than in 2009 (down from 62 percent).  

-58 percent said financial assistance, incentives or subsidies are most likely to encourage action to make their farms more environmentally sustainable. Seeing initiatives work on other farms/businesses similar to theirs increases farmer confidence that actions will be effective.