Irrigation water tax on farmers supported by majority of Kiwis - 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll

The majority of New Zealanders support making farmers pay for what water they use, the latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll shows, as managing the country's water remains a big issue this election.

Canterbury farmers couldn't be more opposed to a water tax. Source: 1 NEWS

Asked should farmers pay water royalties if they irrigate and the funds be used to help clean up our waterways, 59 per cent of voters were in support, 32 per cent opposed and nine per cent don't know.

But many farmers say Labour's water policy targets them unfairly and is creating a rural-urban divide.

Mid-Canterbury farmer David Clark couldn't be more opposed to a water tax, labelling Labour's policy divisive, saying it targets farmers unfairly.

"I think it's been very politically convenient to create town versus country in this stance. And I think that's very sad for us as a nation," he said.

But Labour's water spokesperson, David Parker, disagrees.

"All we've ever asked is for large users of water to make a small contribution back to the public and to help clean up our rivers. We think that's fair enough," he said.

David Clark's frustrations increased after attending a meeting Mr Parker held in Ashburton.

"I was astounded at the hatred that was being directed towards the agricultural community in Ashburton. And I sat there thinking about the fact of the employment that is generated by myself and fellow farmers around the community," Mr Clark said. 

Mr Parker said Mr Clark wasn't happy, "but there were other people there that were unhappy that the rivers they used to swim in can no longer be swum in".

Today farming leaders have pledged to work together to make New Zealand's rivers swimmable for future generations.