Farmers vs. Fish & Game

Simon Lusk, with Bruce and Mabo

Farmers repeatedly complain about Fish & Game being anti farmer. This may be so in the eyes of farmers but farmers should put themselves in the shoes of Fish & Game. Doing so would be revealing.

Fish & Game take an active interest in the environment, especially waterways, because they manage trout populations. They fight against anyone who pollute waterways, as habit preservation, restoration and improvement is the single best way to increase the number of trout.? ?

The single biggest source of pollution of the high value upper rivers is agriculture. Fish & Game fight against polluters of upper rivers because the down stream effect is so great, and Fish & Game is relatively limited in resources. They tend not to fight against the crazy consent granted to the Invercargill City Council because it affects the lower reaches of a river that has far less amenity value to anglers.

Farmers opposing Fish & Game are basically opposing a group that is opposed to farmers polluting. Fish & Game is not anti-farmer, it is anti-pollution. This is a consistent position for any statutory manager of a resource that is threatened by businesses polluting, and a very hard argument for farmers to argue against.

Essentially the argument that farmers are special and deserve a right to pollute is all that farmers have when complaining against Fish & Game. I oppose farmers right to pollute because I am strict fiscal conservative and believe that costs should be paid by those that incur them, rather than imposing them on society. Demanding a free right to pollute, or socialising the cost of pollution, is a socialist position and morally reprehensible.

Blaming Fish & Game for opposing pollution and socialising the cost of pollution is wrong. They are doing their jobs, and they are taking an intellectually consistent position, demanding that those responsible for pollution do not pass on the costs of that pollution to society.

Aside from the moral case that farmers are simply wrong for opposing Fish & Game, farmers should also consider the following point. Society, our legal system and our politics thinks Fish & Game are right.

Fish & Game win. They win public battles by telling the truth about farming as they did with Dirty Dairying. They win in court as they did with the One Plan. They win in Commissions of Inquiry as they did with the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.

Farmers should reflect on why Fish & Game win, why they campaign on the issues they campaign on, and whether the basic principle that farmers have a right to pollute is justifiable.

Fish & Game win not because they are an exceptionally well funded organisation, but because they have chosen to oppose businesses right to pollute. They win because they have society on their side. They win because despite far smaller resources than massive agricultural interests they have right on their side.