News that farmers are feeling the pressure from banks is unsurprising.
Much of its criticism seems directed at the bulk of farming rather than the irresponsible few, Milne said.
“We all know there are a helluva lot of farmers out there doing a helluva lot to improve the environmental footprint of farming and there seems to be very little recognition of that. It often sounds like the [responsible farmers] are outliers, but we all know they’re not.”
Milne’s comments come as nominations close for council elections in each of Fish & Game’s 12 regions, and follow a call by her for farmers to stand for election.
Milne said she is surprised that her call is interpreted by some as suggesting a farmer takeover of Fish & Game.
“Actually this is just another democratic process that we as farmers can be involved in. A lot of us are fishermen or duck shooters so here’s a way to be part of that, if you choose to. Just like when local body elections are up we put out information to remind people they’re up, to get some balance, have some say.
“I know of people who’ve put themselves up. And don’t forget there are already Federated Farmers members on [F&G] councils around the country.”
She said the point is to make sure there is balance and understanding, and to work better together rather than “throw people under the bus”.
Farmland makes up much of NZ’s fishing and shooting areas but there is a risk of F&G alienating farmers who are sick of being told they’re something they’re not.
“The last thing we need is even more of a disconnect because urban people can’t get through a farm to go fishing. And that’s a real danger with the sort of rhetoric that’s coming out.”
The elections are for 12-member councils in each of Fish & Game’s 12 regions. Three regions have 12 or fewer nominees so elections will not be required. Postal and online elections will be held for the other nine, with the results to be declared on October 20.
Hunting and fishing licence-holders are eligible to be nominated and to vote.
Fish & Game national chief executive Martin Taylor said he had not seen the full list of nominees but said farmers were welcome “like anyone else”.
“I am sure they would understand the statutory responsibility Fish & Game has to advocate for our interests and they would declare conflicts of interest if they had them.
“There seems to be a healthy number of people standing, which is excellent. Having people engaged and willing to stand is really important.”
The elections come against the backdrop of three separate investigations underway in three of the F&G regions.
Taylor declined to comment on the investigations but has previously said that issues relating to governance and potential conflicts of interest had been raised about the Central South Island and Hawke’s Bay Fish & Game councils.
North Canterbury is also being audited after councillors raised concerns about the handling of a substantial bequest. They include Springston dairy farmer Phil Musson, who also declined to comment before the results of the audit, which he expected “any day”.
Musson, a former winner of a Fish & Game environmental award, is a co-opted member of the North Canterbury council but is now standing for election.