An advertisement for a sharemilker which ruled out de facto couples has sparked criticism.

The newspaper ad was for a sharemilker in Inglewood, Taranaki, looking for a "married couple or exceptional single person with family support".

It added that "no co-habiting couples need apply".

The ad caused a backlash on Twitter, where it was called discriminatory and illegal.

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The man who placed the ad, Hugh Wilson, told Fairfax he was "just being honest".

"They'll be living in a house on my property and setting an example for my daughters.

"I think marriage has been downgraded in our culture in the last few decades and we're paying for it as a country. There's a huge social cost to our country," he said.

Fairfax reported that Wilson was not aware that employers were unable to discriminate based on marital status.