Cows rather than cats are the focus for Gareth Morgan's new "abuser pays" environmental policy - which would sting dairy farmers with penalty charges if they didn't cut pollution.

The Opportunities Party (TOP) says the current system provides little incentive for farmers and businesses to reduce pollution, and New Zealand's clean and green "100% Pure" image is at stake.

Morgan said the Government had largely left the problem to regional councils.

Those that had tried to tackle the problem had favoured "grandparenting" pollution rights - allocating the right to pollute in the future based on past pollution levels.


That rewarded the dirtiest farmers (with a legacy of pollution) and penalised the best, he said, while removing the incentive to cut pollution.

TOP wants to set "bottom lines" of expected environmental performance, including through the National Policy Statement (NPS) for freshwater management, and then demand continuous improvement.

Any business that couldn't meet performance standards would pay for the additional pollution.

Morgan launched the third in a set of seven policies for the party at Waikato farmer Peter Buckley's dairy farm near Te Kauwhata, where the former Waikato Regional Council chairman had set up a wetland.

Buckley, chairman of the Primary Land Users Group, and Bay of Plenty sheep and beef farmer Rick Burke, chairman of Farmers for Positive Change, believed the policy offered a fairer alternative to issues such as grandparenting, which they said allowed existing levels of pollution to be maintained, usually favouring one farm or one sector.

"Gareth wants to see our environment managed sustainably and our farm systems, and really we've got to have regulation that fits with that so they've got to be dove-tailed together," Burke said.

The current NPS, set in 2014, includes a requirement for regional councils to manage freshwater bodies so people's health is safeguarded, and carries a bottom line that applies to "wading" and boating.

Under the TOP policy, the default bottom line would be to move towards swimmable rivers. Local communities would have the ability to opt out if the cost is prohibitive.

TOP wants pollution rights to be tradable. Any spare capacity would be auctioned off under such a system, with money going towards a clean up fund.

Other aspects of Morgan's environmental policy include:

• Charge all tourists entering New Zealand a $20 levy, with money going to an infrastructure and biodiversity fund.

• Introduce a resource rental on all commercial users of fresh water, including hydro generators.

• Set a target to have all erosion prone land planted by 2030.

• End Government contributions to irrigation projects.

The Government has set a target to double primary exports by 2025. But the conversion of low-intensity sheep and beef farming to dairying has led to increased leaching of nitrogen and phosphorous into waterways.