Fish & Game has batted off criticism after it called out farmers last week for environmental damage.

Its press release angered local farmers for suggesting they had damaged the South Otago and Southland environment.

Fish & Game warned the regions were facing another season of environmental damage, along with animal welfare issues, if farmers "continue to flout winter crop growing guidelines."

Environmental Disaster Unfolding in Southland and South Otago says that photos taken in August show "animals left belly deep in mud and streams running brown with sediment washed from heavily grazed paddocks."


Fish & Game went on to claim that since then, farmers "haven't changed how they plant feed crops and they are continuing to use environmentally damaging methods."

Read more: Farmers told 'get it together' on sediment issue

Critics said the timing of the press release was "opportunistic," as photos were taken when Southland had experienced record-breaking rainfall that week.

Fish & Game New Zealand's chief executive Martin Taylor dismissed these claims when he spoke to The Muster's Andy Thompson.

"It's not opportunistic at all. The fact is the paddocks were bare because of the winter grazing practices and I don't think it's abnormal that Southland gets ... lots of rain."

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"I think that anyone who thinks this is just an accident of a weather event is very wrong."

Thompson said Fish & Game was "picking on dairy constantly" for not looking into whether sheep and beef properties were involved.

"Well this is dairy support mostly and what we're trying to show is, the practices that took place over winter have environmental effects long after the cows have gone back into the farm."


"You can throw your hands up in the air and say 'oh it's all the weather and we can't control the weather,' but the fact remains [that] the stocking rates on those winter-grazed paddocks is controlled by ... the farmer who planted that winter crop on those slopes and then didn't have the right riparian buffer zone."

"The problem here is not with the weather but the practice."