The drought formally declared in the northern regions of the South Island is now extended into Marlborough, Buller and Nelson.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says media reports “misinterpreted” what Environment Minister David Parker said recently on television.
“The media have an agenda; the National Party has an agenda,” he told Rural News.
O’Connor says Parker was talking about nutrient budgets and farmers understand that.
“The question is how we get on to improve nutrient management. There are no plans on cow numbers at all; in fact we said that to Greenpeace who were thinking about a moratorium [on cow numbers] that we don’t buy into.
“We leave it and we can trust the farmers as long as they get clear signals and know what the targets are. I think they will get on with it; we’ve said the target is swimmable water at least.”
O’Connor used his speech at the DairyNZ Farmers Forum in Hamilton last week to allay fears of farmers being forced to reduce cow numbers.
“If you’re on the National Party email list you are probably told it’s cow numbers; that’s not the truth.”
Climate Change Minister James Shaw, who also spoke at the Farmers Forum, told Rural News that media reports on cow numbers were “fear mongering”.
“We are talking about nutrient budget catchment by catchment; that’s exactly what has been happening -- simply taking the best practice and applying it to the whole country.”
DairyNZ chairman Jim van der Poel says DairyNZ in principle supports nutrient budgets.
“They have been around for a while; we agree on managing nutrients on a catchment-by-catchment basis, and that it’s important all farmers and communities – not just dairy farmers – work in a sustainable way.
“Achieving clean waterways is a responsibility for all New Zealanders and we are and will play our part.
“Dairy farmers are very often part of the solution and often leading the work in catchments. We are working closely with the Government and David Parker on this issue and although media interpreted this as being about cow numbers, we don’t believe that is the case.”
Van der Poel says it’s important to protect rural communities as they adjust to new farming practices, given that “thriving rural communities are important to this Government as well”.