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Building Dairy Environment Leaders Forum 2008

Some of New Zealand’s top dairy farmers will be heading to Nelson in December to attend the Building Dairy Environment Leaders Forum 2008.

Martin Bennett, chairman of the forum organising committee, says the event will bring together 38 farmers who have been selected for their performance in competitions like the Ballance Farm Environment Awards and the Westpac Dairy Excellence Awards.

Convened by the New Zealand Farm Environment Award Trust in conjunction with DairyNZ, the Building Dairy Environment Leaders Forum is an initiative developed under the Dairy Industry’s Strategy for Sustainable Environmental Management.

Released in 2006, this strategy sets out a plan of action to reduce the industry’s environmental footprint while maintaining industry viability over the next 10 years.

Martin Bennett says the aim of the forum is to develop an active network of highly effective regional dairy farming leaders that are equipped to lead and engage on environmental matters within, and on behalf of, the dairy industry.

He says delegates have been identified for their potential leadership skills and their proven ability to balance good environmental management with profitable business management.

“While most are already considered farming leaders, a key aim of this programme is to help them improve their leadership skills and provide them with the knowledge and confidence to spread the message to the wider farming community.”

Martin says the concept is based around the premise that “farmers listen to and respect the views of other farmers”.

Starting on December 2, the forum begins with a field trip to marine farms at Havelock where delegates will examine an industry different to their own but one they do have an influence on in terms of issues like water quality.

On day two, delegates will hear from a wide range of speakers from Dairy NZ, Massey University, Fonterra, Synlait, the NZ Farm Environment Award Trust and the Bank of New Zealand.

Key topics covered will include building leadership skills and improving negotiation, mediation, change-management and dispute resolution skills. Delegates will also learn how to develop and manage relationships with the media, and gain an insight into the national and global drivers that influence on-farm activity.

Martin says they can also expect a “rev-up” from Ecologic’s Guy Salmon, who is known for his outspoken views on agriculture’s impact on the environment. He is expected to give a thought-provoking address that will challenge the agricultural sector to be more accountable.

While all of the delegates present will have a good understanding of these issues, Martin says this type of address serves as a reminder that the dairy industry is under constant pressure to improve its performance.

“One of the reasons this forum is so important is that it shows farmers are very serious about lifting their game.”


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