Damien O'Connor says concerns over the Government's Essential Freshwater proposals have been "whipped up into a bit of a frenzy", and most farmers have nothing to fear.

In fact, the Minister for Agriculture told The Country's Jamie Mackay that all New Zealand farmers will gain from the proposals.

"100 per cent will benefit ... they will benefit from underpinning what is our international reputation for ethical production of the best food in the world".

Farmer frustration evident at Queenstown water quality roadshow
Farmers' concerns raised at Southland water quality events
Wairarapa farmers 'betrayed' by waterway proposals


Despite this positive outlook, O'Connor admitted there had been "some pretty good blunt discussions" at the water reform meetings he attended recently.

While the Minister said he appreciated the rural sector's concerns at these meetings, he put the "robust" atmosphere down to misinformation.

"There's been implications by Feds and the National Party that the plans that we're proposing are going to affect every single farmer and cause huge costs.

"The reality is that the vast majority of farmers around this country have been doing what we're proposing ... this has all been going on for ten years since Fonterra launched the Clean Streams Accord".

Mackay queried why David Parker, the "architect" of the proposals, had not attended meetings to talk to farmers about "the biggest change you're looking to force upon farming since the 1980s".

Listen below:

O'Connor said Parker could not "physically get around to all the meetings" and dismissed Mackay's statement as not only "absolute rubbish", but the kind of rhetoric that caused farmers to worry.

"It's not the biggest change. This is why farmers are concerned. For the vast majority of them it won't be any change at all - because they've been getting on and doing it".

Right now uncertainty over the discussion document was putting pressure on the rural sector said O'Connor, but ultimately the water reforms would benefit Kiwi farmers internationally.


"If we make sure that we don't have messages and stories of water degradation around the world we will maintain the premium in the market place.

"That's an advantage for every single farmer in our country and that's what we're trying to do".

Also in today's interview: O'Connor discussed the Mycoplasma bovis situation and the challenges ahead for Fonterra.