'New Zealand isn't living up to its image': James Cameron hits out at meat and dairy industries

James Cameron says New Zealand "isn't living up to its own image of itself" because of our meat and dairy industries, which he claims damage the environment.

The Oscar-winning director owns more than 1500 hectares of rural Wairarapa land, where he's living with his wife Suzy while shooting the next films in his Avatar franchise.

While he describes himself as a "wannabe Kiwi", Cameron sees a lot of environmental problems with New Zealand's economy.

"What we see is that the rivers and the lakes are extremely polluted here," he told TVNZ.

"New Zealand isn't living up to its own image of itself right now, and the image that it projects to the world as the clean, green place.

"So there's a lot of work to do here to steward the land properly."

He says our agricultural industry is to blame.

Recent reports have found dairy farming harms the New Zealand environment in several ways: soil compaction, waterway pollution, heavy water usage in milk production and greenhouse gas emissions from cattle, among others.

Cameron says there are also "a lot of problems with meat", including that it takes from 10 to 40 times as much land to farm meat as it does to farm crops.

"What we need is a nice transition to a meatless or relatively meatless world in 20 or 30 years," he told TVNZ.

In May Cameron told the Just Transition Summit that Kiwi farmers should move towards producing "plant-based alternatives" to meat and dairy.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wasn't keen on a vegan future, either for herself or the country.

"I'm from the Waikato I don't know that I'd be allowed to go home if I became vegan, and I love cheese," she told Newshub at the time.

"There will continue to be export demand for the products New Zealand's really good at producing, and that includes dairy products."