New research shows New Zealanders' perceptions of farming may be more positive than farmers think, says Executive Director of UMP Research Marc Elliott.

"The strong theme we have heard from farmers in the past is that they do not feel well-liked by their urban counterparts. However, when you poll the general population, this is simply not true".

UMR surveyed a representative general public sample of 1,000 respondents, and came up with the following results.

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New Zealanders are almost five times as likely to hold a positive view of sheep & beef farming than a negative one (54 per cent positive compared to only 12 per cent negative).

Meanwhile, New Zealanders were more than twice as likely (51 per cent) to hold a positive view towards dairy farming than a negative one (20 per cent).

The star of the industries tested was horticulture with 68 per cent of New Zealanders declaring a positive view towards this industry compared to only 4 per cent who were negative.

The forestry industry also rated quite well with 56 per cent giving them a positive rating compared to only 9 per cent negative.

Just under half rate fisheries positively (47 per cent compared to 16 per cent negative).

However, even in this instance, those with a positive view outweighed the negative by almost 3 to 1.

UMR Research Executive Director, Marc Skelton. Photo / Supplied
UMR Research Executive Director, Marc Skelton. Photo / Supplied

Elliott said the results were at odds with the perception held by many farmers and showed that although urbanites "expected more" from farmers, they also knew "which side their bread is buttered on".

"One in five New Zealanders (20 per cent) declaring a negative view of dairying is not insignificant, and it shows that our primary sector has some work to do to improve its environmental performance. However, anyone who takes the time to look around our primary industries will see a lot of activity towards becoming more sustainable" said Elliott.

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"For example, land and environmental plans, retiring erosion prone land into native reserves, fencing off and planting around rivers and streams.

"From working in this space over many years we have observed that New Zealanders on this topic are concerned, particularly about impacts on water quality. However, almost in the same breath, they acknowledge both the many jobs and the fantastic quality of food coming out of our primary industries, that they directly benefit from.

"If farmers think urbanites are expecting more from them, they are, and farmers do need to deliver on this. But primary industries must take heart that most New Zealanders know which side their bread is buttered on."

Meanwhile Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor said he welcomed the findings, and said it showed that New Zealand's primary producers were "valued and respected and appreciated by city folk".

"Auckland, our largest urban area, are bigger fans of dairy farming than anywhere else in the country" said O'Connor.

"I would say to our farmers and growers, New Zealanders value your work. There is a lot to be positive about. Primary sector exports are strong, reaching record highs, and the Government is looking to the long-term to make sure it stays that way."