Fonterra Chair reaffirms pledge on swimmable rivers

Fonterra chairman John Wilson has denied there is a urban rural divide, saying farmers, like everyone else, want swimmable rivers.

Mr Wilson told about 300 shareholders at the milk giant's AGM that it was disappointing to see farming politicised during the election.

He told farmers gathered in a specially-remodelled product storeroom at the Whareroa plant in Hāwera that he had expected the worst in the run up to the election.

"Being an election year, water rights and the quality of our nation's waterways were always going to be part of the national conversation.

"While it was disappointing to read and hear about a supposed rural urban divide being leveraged for political gain, it did galvanise our rural communities and the wider agricultural industry."

Mr Wilson said divide was a myth.

"There is no rural urban divide when it comes to water quality. We all want swimmable waterways everywhere across New Zealand. Every dairy farmer wants to pass on their land to the next generation in a better condition than they found it."

South Taranaki farmer Kevin O'Sullivan saw it differently - and he was not alone.

"Well I think there is a big divide between rural and urban.

"Years ago everyone knew somebody who was on a farm, but today they don't. A lot of people don't know where their milk comes from or where they get an egg."

Mr Wilson said dairy farming could continue to produce healthy economic returns without costing the environment and it was vital the government worked with Fonterra to achieve this.

Inglewood dairy farmer Victor McIntyre said it had not been a good look to use farmers as a political football.

"It's disappointing for a start because it doesn't actually represent ... what's happening in the rural community as far as [the] environmental effort that goes in.

"And certainly in Taranaki, here you can see just the amazing progress that's been made."

Fellow farmer Thomas McIntyre was more optimistic about the new government.

"I don't have a problem with the new government, they will do what their election manifesto says ... and we will meet their needs.

"But we're already achieving well ahead of that in most cases anyway."