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Protest planned as farmers feel under-represented in Govt's environment talks

Farmers are calling for "fair and honest dialogue" from the Government over its freshwater proposals and Zero Carbon Bill.

Despite it being a busy time for farmers, they have been turning up to public meetings in droves around the country wanting to be heard.

This weekend, farmers in Ruawai, south of Dargaville, are also holding a protest.

Organiser Mark Cameron talked to TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning about how farmers think legislation is being rushed through without fair representation in the rural community.

"To be quite honest the dialogue, the Government dialogue, has been somewhat vacuous on us and I don't think we've had fair and honest representation through Parliament about the fiscal and emotional degradations these bills are going to have on all rural New Zealand."

Mr Cameron, who is a dairy farmer, said he also knew of beef farmers and growers "that are all going to suffer out of this legislation".

"I speak to the greater rural New Zealand when I say we're all concerned about the flow-on effects because outside of the farmers there's small businesses in rural communities that will honestly suffer out of this."

He agreed that something needed to be done to protect the environment, but said farmers were "problem solvers".

"Universally most farmers will find ways to mitigate the problems."

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The Environment Minister responded to farmers’ call to be heard on Government proposals to become more environmentally friendly. Source: Breakfast

But Environment Minister David Parker said there was opportunity for everyone to work together to fix issues impacting the environment.

"We think that through working with farmers, we can all do our bit and overcome these challenges."

Mr Parker disagreed though that the farming community had not had fair consultation, adding he attended a public meeting with Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor and about 400 farmers in attendance last night.

"We've got these meetings throughout the country," he said. "I don't agree that there's not been enough talk. There's been lots of it."

Mr Parker also said the discussion document had been extended from six weeks to eight upon farmers' requests.

"In terms of the anxiety, well actually it hasn't been helped with, I would say, some ridiculously exaggerated comments by some sections of Federated Farmers who've said this will be the end of farming as we know it, which is just not true."

Mr Parker also said that some groups of farmers have already shown you can farm in an enviromental way which is none-the-less profitable.

Responding to Mr Cameron's concerns about the financial impact on farmers, Mr Parker, who is also the Minister of Trade and Export, said New Zealand trades on its "clean and green image" - one that has been increasingly under scrutiny.

"The primary sector is incredibly important, they're our major source of exports - about $60 billion of exports come from out primary products," he said. 

"But as Minister of Trade, environmental issues come up because people want to know that their food's been produced in an environmentally sound way."

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Protest organiser Mark Cameron talked to TVNZ1’s Breakfast about how farmers think legislation is being rushed through. Source: Breakfast