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The ever growing Rural Urban Divide

Sometime ago, back when things were a little simpler, to be a farmer was to be considered a major contributor to the success of our country. Once upon a time farmers would hold their heads high, proud that they are feeding a nation, supporting their country through export and pushing on through often challenging financial and climatic conditions. While Farmers still have very right to be proud of their contribution , public perception suggests otherwise. As I stand on the edge of the infamous Urban Rural Divide, it seems to be an ever widening canyon of misunderstanding, blame and shame. It’s a division that can only have a negative impact on all of us, and is often rooted in selective, murky facts. It always starts with water ways, as it should. There have been severe mistakes made, no one would deny that. Dairy farming in particular took off like a runaway train with regulations struggling to keep with an industry that was doing everything to keep up with the growing demand for milk products, and the implications of meeting those demands on the environment were strongly neglected. We are all right to be concerned about the effects of farming on waterways, but we also need to be aware that the industry is doing a lot to fix it. Fonterra are working with DOC in the Living Water Partnership, and there are initiatives that are currently transforming farm drains into living water ways and protecting wetlands. 97 % of dairy farm water ways are now fenced. All dairy and dry land farmers are monitoring nitrate leeching and have specific and low levels to operate under. There is a long way to go, and while this is not an over night fix change is positive and practical, and effective action is being taken right now. We are much better to applaud these efforts than continually bag the agriculture industry as if this is the only sector to have a negative environmental impact in our country. Christchurchs’ Heathcote River is heavily polluted with heavy metals from urban stormwater run off. 98% of Christchurch’s rivers and streams failed to meet at least one of the guidelines for water ways. Christchurch and Timaru both rank above WHO guidelines for air pollution. It is hypocritical at best and destructive at worst for us non dairy farmers to sit in swanky cafes sipping milky lattes , enjoying the comforts of an economy whose buoyancy has much to do with dairying, whilst slagging off that very industry. When did it become acceptable to don a fake name and fire insults ( not constructive fact based opinion), from behind the cowardly anonymity of a computer screen? It is not helpful. Farmers are under pressure. My husband is a dry land farmer, and we are in a district that has been in drought for three years. Its epic, intense and all consuming stress. Those not far from us are dealing with earthquake decimated land. The last thing any of us need are the negative, and sometimes down right abusive, comments that are churned up in internet articles, social media and beyond in regards to farming, when it is abundantly clear that most farmers are working towards a more holistic, sustainable and less aggressive approach in often trying circumstances. We are not a country that should be divided. We are so much better than this. Urban and Rural sectors are both necessary for the continued growth of this country, and we need each other. We both have cleaning up to do, and we have lessons to learn. Its time to stop the mud slinging.

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