David Parker has signalled tough new measures that could bring a halt to further dairy farming intensification, but does that make him anti-farming?

The environment minister spoke to The Country's Jamie Mackay saying he isn't anti-farming and he believes most New Zealanders are behind cleaner waterways - including farmers.

"I've got a pretty simple view of water quality. Rivers in summer should be clean enough to swim in, put your head under without the risk of getting crook ... the vast majority of New Zealanders and the vast majority of farmers agree with me on that."

Read more: New Govt water plan would curb intensification


Mackay says Parker is putting "high standards" on rural New Zealand's water quality and wonders if there will be the same pressure on urban waterways.

"There are plenty of urban rivers that aren't clean enough," says Parker.

"The worst are actually in Auckland where they have significant sewerage overflows when they have a stormwater event ... so sewage flows on to their beaches."

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Parker says Auckland has a plan to bring forward $900 million of expenditure and to decrease the quantity of effluent flowing on to beaches between 80 and 90 per cent.

"If the rural sector can do that in respect of their discharges to water I'll be well happy."

Parker says he is prepared to give the rural sector more than 10 years to improve the quality of waterways and that he is determined to "stop it getting worse," he also refutes Mackay's suggestion he is anti-irrigation.

"I'm not opposed to all irrigation, I'm just opposed to irrigation that relies ... upon more intensive agriculture which leads to more nutrients."

Mackay challenges Parker's analysis into the freshwater plan, suggesting there hasn't been any consultation with the industry about the potential economic impact.


Parker who confirms the cost benefit analysis hasn't been done for the new national policy statement yet, says it will be part of the ongoing process.

"The industry's been consulted for over a decade here and we're still consulting with the industry ... you actually don't do a cost benefit analysis of whether you should have clean rivers, that's actually a value judgement."

When Mackay asks for a time frame for implementing the plan - Parker says "I want to stop things getting worse immediately, what that effectively means is that you should have to get a resource consent to substantially increase the intensity of land use.

"So if you're going to convert land to a dairy farm somewhere in the country you'll need a resource consent and you might not get it."