As well as laying out its new strategy, Fonterra should make clearer how it got into this trouble, says Federated Farmers national vice-president and dairy farmer Andrew Hoggard.
However the problem with such an election stunt is that it perpetrates misconceptions, he says.
“The best way of improving waterways where they need to be improved is by a catchment focus basis,” he told Dairy News.
“With the Greens’ policy, they are focusing on just nitrogen and only from one source. If a catchment has an issue with nitrogen you need to focus on it from all sources.
“Nitrogen is not the issue in all catchments; if swimmability is what people are after then it’s E.coli they need to be looking at; sediment may be a big factor.”
The Greens proposal is just a vote catcher, says Hoggard. “Will it ever be implemented? No. Once it has seen the light of day and you’ve had some bureaucrats looking at it, it will be thrown away because it is impractical.... How could you ever implement it given the variances with Overseer?
“I don’t think it is ever going to happen. It shows a lack of understanding of science.
“You had the Greens agricultural people asking questions on Twitter about seven days ago about Overseer. One thinks it might be a policy they have just come up with in the last couple of weeks because Labour stole their ground and they are looking at a bit of a doomsday scenario of not being in Parliament anymore, so they wanted to get one up on them.”
The problem is that it perpetuates misunderstanding. “That’s the problem; everyone in town is thinking it’s just nitrates and dairy cows that are the problem.
“All this about ‘all our rivers are stuffed and we’ve got the worst in the world’ – everyone is just repeating this but it is not based on any real stats.
“Yes, we’ve got waterways degraded and a whole bunch of them not as we’d like, but ‘worst in the world?’ Really?
“I’ve been to a number of parts of the world, and trust me our waterways are pretty bloody good. They could be better and as an agricultural community Katie (Milne, Feds president) fronted that pledge a couple of weeks back. We expect we will make them better and we will work hard on doing that.
“[The Greens] are just playing into this whole scaremongering thing that is going on.”
Hoggard says he looks at his own catchment, his own waterway. He looked at the stats the other day and saw it is swimmable; all the levels are where they need to be… the trend in terms of nitrogen is improving.
“It shows me all the farmers in my catchment; and I also hand it to the local communities with their sewage treatment plants; they are all investing in the right things.”