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54 Farmers Complete Environmental Leadership Programme

Friday, 7th December 2012

Fifty Four Farmers Complete 2012 Environmental Leadership Programme

Another group of farming leaders is ready to spread the sustainability message, following the successful conclusion of the 2012 Building Dairy Environment Leaders Forum in Southland.

An initiative of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust and DairyNZ, the annual forum enhances leadership qualities by giving top dairy farmers access to leading environmental and business leaders.

The 2012 event was held in Invercargill from November 27 to 29.

Forum chairman and Putaruru dairy farmer Martin Bennett said the 54 farmers participating shared their thoughts on how the dairy industry shapes its response to sustainability challenges.

“The feedback from participants was excellent. I think the forum gave them great insight into how community expectations and new environmental regulations are shaping the future of our industry.”

Participants included former dairy farmer winners of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, sharemilkers/equity partners, managers and trainees of the Dairy Industry Awards and the dairy winner from the Ahuwhenua Awards.

“These farmers were specifically chosen for their achievements in environmental leadership and profitable business management,” Martin says.

“The course was designed to build their self-confidence, knowledge and communication skills so they can lead on environmental matters within, and on behalf of, the dairy industry.”

This year’s forum featured another top line-up of speakers, including economic commentator Bernard Hickey, Dame Margaret Bazley, Chair of Commissioners, Environment Canterbury, Hon. David Caygill, Deputy Chair of Commissioners, Environment Canterbury, Kevin Hackwell, Forest and Bird, Ali Timms, Chair Environment Southland, and Dr Tim Mackle, Chief Executive, DairyNZ.

Martin Bennett says a highlight of the forum was the session on water allocation and quality issues in Canterbury.

“Dame Margaret Bazley, Bill Bayfield (Chief Executive, Environment Canterbury) and David Caygill talked about the new environmental regulations and how Environment Canterbury is engaging farming and urban communities to take ownership of water issues. Their approach to the challenges faced was very refreshing.”

Ali Timms, Chair of Environment Southland, and Rob Phillips, Chief Executive of Environment Southland, also “shared openly” while participating in a session on positive leadership.

“It was a good opportunity for the host region to show other farmers what the dairy industry and environmental regulators are doing to tackle fresh water allocation and water quality issues in Southland.”

Forum participants were also inspired by professional rugby player Jamie Mackintosh’s after-dinner speech on the trials and tribulations of leading the Southland and Otago Highlander rugby teams.

Martin Bennett says farmers attending the forum agreed that while environmental issues facing each region may vary, “the principles of sustainability are the same wherever you farm”.

He says the 54 participants left the forum well-equipped to spread what they have learnt to the wider farming community.

“The aim of the forum isn’t to tell these people how to run their farms because they are obviously doing a great job of that already. Instead it’s all about looking at the big picture in terms of financial, environmental and social sustainability, with the goal of capturing the talent of these farmers and helping them develop into active regional champions.”

A total of 239 farmers have participated in the forum in the six years it has been running.

“If they can each help ten other farmers, that’s almost a quarter of the dairy industry covered.”

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