Policy and practice certainty for effective uptake of diffuse pollution practices in a light touch regulated country

Jorie Knook, Ina Pinxterhuis, Cecile de Klein, Vera Eory, Dominic Moran, Matthew Brander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although the link between agriculture and diffuse water pollution has been understood for decades, there is still a need to implement effective measures to address this issue. In countries with light-touch regulation, such as New Zealand and Australia, most efforts to promote environmental management practices have relied on voluntary initiatives such as participatory research and extension programmes; the success of which is largely dependent on farmers’ willingness and ability to adopt these practices. Increased understanding of the factors influencing farmer decision-making in this area would aid the promotion of effective advisory services. This study provides insights from 52 qualitative interviews with farmers and from observations of 9 farmer meetings and field days. We qualitatively identify factors that influence farmer decision-making regarding the voluntary uptake of water quality practices and develop a typology for categorising farmers according to the factors that influence their decision-making. We find that in light-touch regulated countries certainty around policy and also around the effectiveness of practices is essential, particularly for farmers who delay action until compelled to act due to succession or regulation. The contribution of this paper is three-fold: i) it identifies factors influencing decision-making around the uptake of water quality practices in a light-touch regulated country; ii) it develops a typology of different farmer types; and iii) it provides recommendations on policy approaches for countries with light-touch regulation, which has potential relevance for any countries facing changes regarding their agricultural policy, such as post-Brexit policy in the UK.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 19 Dec 2019


  • farmer behaviour
  • water pollution
  • environmental management
  • advisory services
  • extension


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