When I was a kid, going to stay on farms with our country relatives was a real treat.

I can still remember, at the age of 7 or 8, the thrill of seeing a lamb being born, on a cold crisp Canterbury morning. In my memory, the amniotic sac was a beautiful, rainbow colour and I can remember feeling both awestruck and completely grossed out.

At another rellie's farm, I became a dab hand at dodging shitty cows' tails and putting on suction cups and hosing down the milking sheds after the cows had made their way back to the paddocks.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Eric the pig when I took my daughter to see her South Island grandparents - and a few months later I thoroughly enjoyed eating Eric the pig at Christmas - although not without a pang.


I've spent a day filming at a freezing works and although a freeing works is a bit of an assault on the senses - and it took more time than I imagined to scrub off the dried cow blood and viscera from my face - I came away feeling satisfied the meat I was eating was being killed humanely, efficiently and hygienically.

In fact, apart from the horrified look on the steer's face as it came up the ramp and saw that all the horror stories it had heard as a little calf from its older brothers were, in fact, true, the steer didn't know a thing. Would that my death be as quick and as painless.

Suffice to say, I understand what it is to choose to be a meat eater and I don't have too many romantic notions of farms or the business of farming.

And I'm very grateful to the farmers of New Zealand for creating a modern, sophisticated industry that is the backbone of this country's economy.

I know it hasn't come without pain. The fourth Labour Government removed subsidies for farmers in the 80s and I remember the news items showing farmers, devastated and broken, walking off their farms, farms that had been in families for five and six generations.

Thirty years on and milk fat prices are linked to New Zealand's wellbeing. I understand all that. And I'm also well aware that the responsibility for, and the burden of cleaning up, New Zealand's filthy waterways is not solely that of farmers.

I have written many times about the need for Auckland's council to bring its infrastructure into the 21st century and stop polluting Auckland's harbours, rivers and streams with filth.

We have to clean up our own backyards before we can go interfering in anybody's elses.


And I I understand the rationale behind David Clark's open letter to New Zealanders, concerned about the rift he sees opening up between urban and rural Kiwis.

The mid-Canterbury farmer launched a passionate defence of farming this week, deploring the fact that so many New Zealanders seem to see farmers as the enemy.

I think it was more the comments made by his local Ashburton community that upset him - comments along the lines of farmers ruining the countryside and degrading the waterways when in fact Clark pointed out that farmers were the lifeblood of so many communities around the country.

I'm sorry that farmers feel so defensive. Most of them are doing their best to make a quid and look after their livestock and the land and it's simply not in their best interests to run a shoddy operation.

But townies are allowed to have an opinion even if they don't have cow sh*t in their veins.

Farmers don't operate individual fiefdoms where their word is law - they have to abide by rules and regulations, the same as all the rest of us.

Yes, rules are irritating and time consuming and costly and sometimes we don't see the sense in them, but we all have to abide by them.

Townies need to understand farms aren't bucolic Disneylands and farmers need to appreciate that the decisions they make don't just affect their bottom lines - they affect the rest of the country, too.