Snowflake. D**k. Greenie. Jack "Lame".

I've enjoyed seven days of insults, creative and otherwise, after I used this column last week to consider an obvious double standard in our attitudes to water.

I questioned the fairness in charging foreign water exporters for taking and bottling our water when New Zealand's agriculture sector uses 600,000 times more water than is exported from our shores every year.

I have been surprised by the number of farmers who contacted me, incorrectly mistaking their rates bills for being charged for the actual resource.


In my inbox is robust debate over the total water volumes required to produce milk (all the figures I referenced are from the Ministry for the Environment) and clearly different farmers with different pastures achieve different water-to-milk returns.

However, for the multitude of communications I've received, no one has questioned the massive total water used by our agricultural sector, and no dairy farmers have contacted me to argue the environmental impact of
dairy intensification.

For all the R&D and best practice, dairy farmers will acknowledge dairying is still a dirty business. It's uncomfortable, sure, but true.

To be clear, I'm not suggesting only farmers should be targeted and charged for their water use.

Indeed, any commercial operation turning water into money should reasonably expect to have to pay in order to do so.

If charging is introduced for bottled water exports and agriculture, then the same should apply for electricity companies, and any company that benefits commercially from the resource. Although I'm sure this won't be for everyone, I'm not opposed to introducing charges for domestic use as well.

But farmers should lead the way. The agriculture sector causes much more environmental damage than bottled water export companies or hydro-dams. It's a sad irony of an unbalanced system that a sector using so much water ends up damaging that very resource.

And overall, I have to say, I've been heartened by the reasonableness of many farmers' responses.


What we lack, perhaps, is sufficient political will for change. But it's in nobody's interests to spoil paradise.

Jack Tame is on NewstalkZB Saturdays, 9am-noon.