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New Zealand's new fresh water regulation rules will have no major impacts on the national economy, according to an independent report just out.

The report by independent economic consultancy New Zealand Institute of Economic Research shows that dairying represents about 3% of national GDP and is behind tourism in export earnings. 

The study, commissioned by Forest & Bird, Greenpeace, and Fish and Game, found the impact on national GDP of the proposed reforms were unlikely to be major, stating that: “Due to the relatively small size of the dairy industry, the impacts of the government reforms are unlikely to be major at the national level, and not felt for many years due to the long lead in times proposed.”

It found that in 2013, farmers and farm managers represented 2.92% of the national workforce, while farm, forestry and garden workers represented a further 2.26%.

The NZIER report states that “Experience shows that by focusing on profits, not production, farms can increase their economic returns and reduce their impact on the environment.”

Forest & Bird’s Fresh Water Advocate, Annabeth Cohen says “The contribution of dairying to GDP does not account for the destruction to rivers, lakes and wetlands and the billions of dollars spent cleaning up the mess from intensive dairying and poor farm practices.

“The real backbone of the economy is the environment. Most importantly a clean environment provides the essentials – the air we breathe, the water we drink and mahinga kai.

“Our precious freshwater fish, birds, and invertebrates are priceless,” Ms Cohen says.

Greenpeace campaigner Gen Toop said the report comes at a crucial moment for New Zealand’s rivers, as the Government is currently consulting on new freshwater rules.  

“This report should put an end to the exaggerated claims that new water rules will end pastoral farming or have a major impact on New Zealand’s economy.”

“Far from ‘throwing farmers under the tractor’ the report reveals that new rules to protect our rivers will likely spur greater innovation in farming to reduce its environmental impact,” Ms Toop says.

It adds that the ‘New Zealand farming community is proud of its tradition of innovation, and there is no reason to suppose it will not rise to the challenges of the new environmental rules.’

The study was commissioned to show the relative size of the farming sector within the New Zealand economy and to gauge the potential impacts of the freshwater reforms announced earlier this month.

A copy of the report can be found here

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