A survey of New Zealanders' views on the primary sector suggests that the rural-urban disconnect may not be as marked as some commentators claim.

The survey, conducted for the Ministry for Primary Industries during last year's election campaign, when 'farmer bashing' was high on some politicians' and lobby groups' agendas, did find a drop in positivity about pastoral farming among both urban and rural respondents, which did not surprise Federated Farmers president Katie Milne given the political climate at the time.

"It appears we're united in our determination to do even more to continue to strive for improvements in water quality.

"Double the number of both city and country folk see water quality as our most significant issue when compared to a similar survey in 2008; after all we are all in this together," she said.

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The primary sector, however, was still viewed as a significant contributor to the wider economy, two-thirds of respondents believing the country was better off when farmers were going well. The survey also found that positive views of the dairy sector still outnumbered the negative two to one.

Ms Milne added that Federated Farmers was impressed that urban folk shared farmers' concerns about such issues as biosecurity incursions and the need for more education and awareness around prevention.

Farmers would also take heart in the report's findings regarding their activities and licence to operate.

"The report considers that the primary sector currently earns its 'social licence to operate' by providing employment opportunities, economic stability and food for New Zealanders," she said.