Speaking to The Country’s Jamie McKay, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters insisted that New Zealand First had always ensured farmers got the best deal possible with regards to freshwater law reform.
He said it was a wrong approach to label the farming community as the enemy in talking about cleaning up our rivers and streams.
“It’s not an us versus them situation, whether you are in the city or the country, everybody has to pitch in to clean this country up”.
“We cannot go on with polluted and spoiled, but we have to use farmers as our first line in the army or the military of a counter-attack, so to speak, supported by public money, and in turn assisted by science to win this battle,” the Party Leader added.
However, Mr Peters noted that it would also benefit farmers to take a greener approach to farming.
“Here’s the rub: the only way the farming community in this country is going to survive economically internationally, is to have respectability of their production. If they don’t, they will be shut out worldwide by other markets who are playing the game, and will look at us and say: ‘you guys are not clean and green as you say’”.
The Party Leader used the example of Scandinavian countries, which had successful farming industries but at the same time placed a premium on ensuring their freshwater sources remain clean.
“Go to Scandinavia, you can’t see a river or a stream without trees on both sides of it. They are selling their products at the top of the added-value market, whilst we had farming leadership praising Fonterra while they’re just about destroyed the greatest industry this country has got”.
When asked about the relatively short submission process window for the proposed freshwater reforms, Mr Peters said he had requested two more weeks to be added to give farmers ‘a fairer go’.
“That gives you two months [in total], and if you prepared for this issue, which you knew was inevitable to come, you would have your submissions already ready,” he said.