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Frank Brenmuhl Address To Dairy Farmers

Frank Brenmuhl

Federated Farmers Dairy Section Chairman


Address to combined Federated Farmers of New Zealand Dairy Section

and Australian Dairy Farmers Council Meeting.


Sudima Hotel, Christchurch


Delivered at 9am, Friday 15 February, 2008


Wake up New Zealand it’s election year. This is when politicians make promises and tell us of the benefits that their efforts have bestowed upon us. It is the time when political parties, private special interest groups and government sponsored organizations like Fish & Game try to influence the public in order to justify their existence.

My message and request is clear. Look at what they do. It is often very different from what they say.

The release of the Environment New Zealand 2007 report heralded the need for some political parties and organizations to develop a following, in order for them to survive.

The Environment New Zealand 2007 report gives a snapshot in time that will enable all New Zealanders to look at the state of our environment and our effect upon it. It states that in world terms our claims on the state of our environment are justified.

It does not say that dairy farmers are the reason that we have not got the quality of water that we desire. It says that there are many factors that impact on our environment and that dairy farming is just one of these.

Bryce Johnson, the CEO of Fish & Game New Zealand has decided that this is an opportune time to revive their anti dairy farming campaign for imposing controls over and above those required of other sectors. They have chosen to misquote and misuse the Environment New Zealand 2007 report in order to achieve this objective.

Fish & Game uses government mandated levies from fishermen and duck shooters. Hunters have no choice but to comply with this legal requirement to pay the fees. Under the Conservation Act, Fish & Game are charged with using this money to manage and enhance the fishery, to manage the numbers of ducks and geese available for hunting and to advocate on behalf of the license payers.

Fish & Game undertake no environmental remedies, mitigation or avoidance relating to the effects of their licence holders on the environment and have no regulated responsibility to do so. I could be unkind and say that the levy is something of a self imposed entertainment tax for a group who like fishing and shooting.

Their levy money does little to enhance the New Zealand economy. Contrast that with dairy farmers. We are voluntarily levied and our money is directed in research, science and technology to find solutions to help mitigate our environmental footprint and ensure that our industry maintains its international competitiveness for the benefit of all New Zealanders, including shooters and fishermen…

Fish & Game has steadfastly refused to acknowledge the role of fishermen with felt soled boots have, in the spread of didymo otherwise known as “rock snot” to iconic and what were, pristine rivers. These boots are virtually impossible to clean and are recognized as the most likely method of spreading didymo. This lack of action is nothing short of criminal.

For Bryce Johnson to call on the government to regulate production from the agricultural sector while at the same time presiding over the spread of the most noxious water weed that we could envisage beggars belief. He is, I believe, out of touch with the fishermen that he claims to represent.

As a farmer I do not need fishermen, but fishermen need farmers. It is a relationship that was built on trust and respect. It is under threat. For Fish & Game to rebuild that trust, they need to abide by the agreements that they and the Minister of Conservation signed up to in1996, and reduce the Canada goose population by half and to respect the rights of land owners as land custodians.

Currently ducks and geese are accounting for many of the bacteriological issues, mainly e-coli and salmonella, surrounding water quality. It is hypocritical for Fish & Game to ignore the effect of their game stocks on the environment. They do, like all other livestock when overstocking occurs, have a negative impact on the environment.

For the record, look at what they do; not what they say.

Again dairy farmers through the environmental policies of DairyNZ are quietly working away in the background making incremental gains for all society and not making a big deal about it.

The Green Party has also found the need to influence the public to justify their place; to find an issue that will revive their chances of being re-elected to parliament. They have chosen to use the release of the Environment New Zealand 2007 report in order to achieve this objective.

The Greens outburst even before the public release of the report is disturbing. To the media’s credit we have been given the opportunity to reply but it is disconcerting to see would be politicians  misusing  such an important report to score political points.

Over the past eight years the vast majority of legislation the Greens have promoted has been related to social issues, not environmental issues.  

Look at what they do; it is often very different from what they say.

What is it about the dairy industry that makes us a target? Is it the fact that we are a group that is seen as too successful? Do the rewards for working hard, taking risks to achieve, self sacrifice and determination no longer resonate as things that as New Zealanders we should be proud of? Is this the reason that the Green Party is at pains to distort the image of the dairy industry, by claiming that it is a group of giant corporations instead of small to medium farming businesses that are the true backbone of our industry?

Our international reputation is one of individual and family farmers taking control of our destiny, holding tightly to our co-operative principles and trading in the world market at a level that overseas farming interests find amazing. Together we are the only New Zealand owned business of sufficient size and influence capable of giving the much needed revenue boost for the continued prosperity of all New Zealanders.

It is the reason that media financial commentators have been so keen to have Fonterra open up its capital structure so those with money to invest can clip two percent off the ticket as opposed to only New Zealand farmers being able to hold shares.

Dairy farmers care about New Zealand. We are proud of our industry. We are proud of the fact that we are a group of individuals, families, and businesses that have worked together to build an industry capable of taking on the world and succeeding often against global competitors with gross turnover exceeding that of some small countries.

Farmers care about our land and our environment. We nurture the land and the resources that we use and we are constantly looking for new ways to improve our performance. We will continue to invest in the ongoing research and development to ensure long term sustainability, and then put into practice the information that is gained.

It has always been this way. It is the way we have proceeded to become the industry we are and we are not going to roll over lightly just because some misguided folk with personal agendas cannot read a straightforward report and use the information in the best interests of New Zealand.

The Environment New Zealand 2007 report details a wide range of issues that we as New Zealanders will have to deal with if the environmental targets are to be raised to the levels that we aspire to.

·         From improving the level of compliance on farms to ensuring that urban sewerage systems no longer regularly overflow and threaten human health. 

·         From ensuring that the degrading effects of soil erosion on the coastal marine environment from deforestation and urban development, to the stabilizing of hill country.

·         From the ever increasing demands for energy and transport to the concerns surrounding endangered species.

The report is a valuable resource and one which those with an interest in the environment should read.

For us as farmers, it is both recognition for the good work we have done to date and the work left to do. It is ongoing, but as farmers we will, as always, continue to do the best that we can, with the tools that we have. There is something in this report for everyone in New Zealand to work on. It will take the best efforts of all not just dairy farmers to make a difference.

Unsustainable expectations raised by the short term desires of sectional interest groups are another matter.

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