By Gareth Vaughan
People in the rural community need to get on the front foot and engage their urban counterparts in an informed conversation about farming and the environment, says ASB's executive general manager of corporate, commercial and rural banking Steve Jurkovich.
Jurkovich told interest.co.nz in a Double Shot interview people needed to get off the fence on issues around farming's impact on the environment, including water quality.
"If you look at elections and the way politics works in New Zealand, the urban population obviously greatly outnumbers the rural one. And so having an informed conversation around what is happening on farm is absolutely critical to the sustainability of the industry," said Jurkovich.
"I think literally someone, a group of people, need to get off the fence and actually say 'hey let's get this conversation going, let's get some investment in the area because head in the sand stuff's not going to work'," Jurkovich added.
He said ASB itself also has a role to play.
"We're a big business, we need to contribute and actively put our balance sheet where our mouth is and make sure we get on the front foot."
Meanwhile, Jurkovich said ASB's environmental compliance loan for farmers, which it launched in February last year with other banks following with similar products, has been taken up by "hundreds of customers."
"And sometimes that's the catalyst that's needed to undertake some work that they wanted to do," said Jurkovich.
"The key success factor for me is hopefully hundreds more ASB customers are thinking about what sort of investment they should make around a more sustainable business."
In hundreds of monthly conversations he and other ASB staff have with customers Jurkovich said he had never heard about any farmer customers who aren't aware good stewardship of the land is "absolutely critical" to the future.
"We sort of recognise that there's this massive opportunity coming from an expanding middle class around the world, but it does put pressure on sustainability. And when we say sustainability we mean both environmental and business performance," Jurkovich said.