Farmers 'scaremongering' about the impacts of Government's freshwater changes - Fish and Game

Fish and Game say farmers have been 'scaremongering' about the effects of the Government's proposed freshwater changes. 

It follows a report by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research that found the contribution of dairy farming to the economy is small and any impacts are unlikely to be felt for many years.

Farmers reacted with fury to the Government's plans to improve water quality - but a new report casts doubt on just how worried farmers should be. 

"Federated Farmers has come out [saying], 'this is the end of the world'. This report clearly says there is no impact or very little impact on the economy from the Government's freshwater proposals," said Fish and Game chief executive Martin Taylor.

New Zealand Institute for Economic Research has argued that the proposal has little overall effect because dairy is worth just 3 percent of the country's GDP.

"It will have a small effect overall, because the dairy sector is not a massive part of the economy," said Peter Wilson, NZIER's principal economist and head of Auckland business.

Fish and Game say farmers have plenty of time to make changes.

"In those hot spots where we've got real pollution, they may have to change... but that's going to take 20 years," says Taylor.

The Government's freshwater plan includes a restriction on the intensification of land and the reduction of nitrogen leaching into the soil.

The report acknowledges that farming will clearly be hit in regions like Canterbury, where the land used for dairy has doubled in 10 years.

"The effect will be larger in regional areas where dairying is an important part of those economies," says Wilson.

It's inevitable that some farmers will be hit in the pocket, but the report argues there will also be benefits as farmers will learn to adapt, leading to creativity and innovation.