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Farm environment awards set the national benchmark

Farm environment awards set the national benchmark

A rural environmental award that will soon launch into its third year in the Bay of Plenty is fast becoming the benchmark for other farm awards, says regional judging coordinator Ian Pirani.

Mr Pirani, a Katikati farmer, says the Ballance Farm Environment Awards highlight “the way of the future” for farming practice in this country. Eventually, he predicts, all New Zealand will embrace the philosophy of sustainability.

“The awards are a great way to help farmers understand that, if they don’t care for their environment, they won’t have a profitable future.” Mr Pirani, who has been involved in international conservation efforts, says attitudes have changed a lot since he began farming at the age of 16. “Back then, the environment was way down the list for farmers. We were taught to drain everything. It’s very different now.”

The Ballance Farm Environment Awards are based around the concept that sustainable farming is practical, achievable and profitable. They were held in seven regions this year, including the Bay of Plenty. Principal sponsor for the national awards programme is Ballance Agri-nutrients, with support from ANZ Bank, Wrightson, Gallagher, Richmond and Livestock Improvement Corporation. Environment Bay of Plenty coordinated the region’s first two events and has now confirmed its support for future ones.

Environment Bay of Plenty’s group manager community relations Bruce Fraser says the awards give councillors and staff the opportunity to work collaboratively with rural landowners and key organisations to improve the environment. A key goal is to find and promote the environmental leaders of the community so they can become role models that others will follow. “This will make our job easier and help to improve the quality of the region’s land and water resources.” Mr Fraser hopes the event will continue to increase acceptance and awareness of environmental sustainability as “the way we do things in the Bay of Plenty.”

Mr Fraser and Mr Pirani have recently been appointed as trustees to the New Zealand Farm Environment Awards Trust. Te Puke’s Laurie and Joy Shearer won the supreme award this year while Geoff and Gill Brann, of Paengaroa, took the award in its inaugural year. The next event opens for entries in October.

CAPTION: Ballance Farm Environment Awards judge Ian Pirani at the podium in the last awards ceremony in Rotorua in April.

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