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Farmers will lose if they don’t care for environmt

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Farmers will lose out if they don’t show they are looking after the environment

For immediate release: Wednesday 31 August 2005

Bay of Plenty farmers and orchardists will lose out financially if they don’t show their customers they are looking after the environment, warns kiwifruit industry stalwart John Bourke.

Mr Bourke, the new Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards chairman, says consumers in New Zealand and around the world are putting more and more pressure on primary producers. “They are demanding safe food that has been grown without damaging the environment. It is critical that we produce and deliver to them what they want. We must never forget that consumers create the revenue which keeps us all in business.”

Mr Bourke, who has judged the Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) for the past three years, is now chairman of the region’s organising committee. The awards are coordinated regionally by Environment Bay of Plenty.

As chairman, he wants to promote awareness of the need for sustainable farming practices and to encourage more farmers to take them up. He urges primary producers to wholeheartedly support the awards, seeing it as a way “to show our neighbours, and the world, that we are serious about caring for the environment”

“It is no longer enough to go quietly about our business,” he adds. Primary producers will only preserve their right to farm by demonstrating that they use sustainable methods in their farming practices. “Farmers do care about the environment. In the past five years, in particular, they have become more aware of what they need to be doing. But they need to actually show people they are doing it.”

Mr Bourke, who has a kiwifruit, sheep and cattle property at Apata near Tauranga, brings to the new role many years of experience in the kiwifruit and farming industries. He was chairman of the Bay of Plenty Deer Farmers Association for seven years and also chaired the Katikati Fruitgrowers Association. He was a member of the Kiwifruit Marketing Board for 10 years, taking it through the very successful transition into the Zespri brand.

The kiwifruit industry took up the challenge for sustainability more than a decade ago, Mr Bourke says. It the early 1990s, the industry adopted the Kiwi Green programme, which limited spray use. More recently, it signed up for EuroGap, which ensures safe practices generally. Mr Bourke points out that this year’s Ballance Farm Environment Award supreme winners, Brett and Rachael Wotton, grew kiwifruit in Opotiki. “They highlight that farming sustainably does not mean sacrificing production or profit. They had outstanding production figures. We are in business and we want to do well. There is no doubt we can do well without putting pressure on the environment.”

He encourages people to enter the awards later this year. “Don’t be afraid of entering. It’s not judgemental. It is a very pleasant experience – just ask those who have done it.

Principal sponsor, Ballance Agri-Nutrients, is joined in supporting the Farm Environment Awards by RaboBank, PPCS, Livestock Improvement, Gallagher Group, Wrightson and Hill Laboratories, with Environment Bay of Plenty is a Regional partner.

ENDS

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