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Perceptions of the ‘good farmer’ and social licence to operate in Aotearoa New Zealand

May 2024

Publication: Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand
Author(s): Pamela Booth, Martin Espig, Nicholas Kirk, Jim Sinner, Hugh Campbell, Peter Edwards, Robyn Kannemeyer, Chloe Dear

Over the past 50 years, farming practices and public perceptions of farming in Aotearoa New Zealand have changed substantially. These changes raise questions over the future relationship between farming communities and the public. Recent research challenges the assumption that perceptions of farming differ significantly between farmers and the public.

Using two recent surveys in Aotearoa New Zealand, we apply the social licence to operate concept using the ‘good farmer’ as a foundation. We find perceptions of ‘good farming’ practices held by the public and farmers are relatively aligned, but these groups may have different interpretations despite core messages aligning. Farmers were trusted as a source of information more than mainstream media by both groups. Increasing alignment of ‘good farmer’ perceptions between the groups can lead to an increase in perceived trustworthiness of farmers as an information source by the public.

Our findings contribute to the emerging body of literature showing the perceived ‘rural/urban divide’ may not be as large as believed. These insights extend the literature by finding strong alignment of perceptions and nuanced interpretations of good farming practices by the public and farmers. Further investigation can contribute to constructive societal conversations about agriculture’s social licence in Aotearoa New Zealand.

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