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Bunkle Accolade for Franklin project

Hon Phillida Bunkle
20 October 2000 Speech Notes

Embargoed until:3pm, Friday, 20 October 2000

Accolade for Franklin project

Franklin Sustainability Project booklet launch – a collection of sustainable ideas for growers

Good afternoon, and thank you for the invitation to share in your celebrations today.

Today's event is the culmination of much hard work from many people within many agencies to make this booklet possible. The Pukekohe Vegetable Growers Association, Agriculture New Zealand, Vegfed, the Waikato and Auckland regional councils and others that have contributed to the development of this booklet – well done. Your work deserves recognition.

It's great to see a local initiative like this that offers landowners practical advice and guidance on how to operate your businesses in sustainable ways. The idea is local, for local people, with local benefits. The bonus, is that others outside your area will benefit from what you have learned and experienced here.

The Franklin Sustainability Project is a primary example of where people and agencies can work together to provide some very real benefits for New Zealand.
As I understand it, the Project operates as a multi stakeholder scheme to address sustainability issues in commercial vegetable production in Franklin. It has been effective in testing and demonstrating sustainable land management systems for commercial vegetable growing, and then communicating to landowners how to implement sustainable land management practices and technology.

I am aware for example that the project has identified that landowners can potentially reduce the amount of nitrogen fertilizer application and without affecting potato crop yield. Similarly, there has been work on reducing soil erosion through improved infiltration of rainfall by ripping wheel tracks. This work really does contribute to more sustainable farming practices.

The attitude you have adopted here towards the environment is the attitude I personally would like to see adopted by other industries. One of the issues dear to my heart is the close relationship between environmental health and human health. The two are inextricably linked. Achieving sustainable outcomes has so many benefits for us economically, socially and physically.

It's no wonder the environment is one of our country's most important strategic assets.

Much of our overseas trade relies on the perception that New Zealand produces world class agricultural products from a healthy environment. But how clean and green is New Zealand?
Many of you will know that our clean green image is, in some places, more a perception than a reality. I am aware that State of the Environment reporting has red-flagged parts of our environment as not all that clean and green at all. This has consequences not only for the health and vitality of our people, but also for the products we sell internationally on the back of our clean green image.

This government believes the environment and other aspects of our society cannot be left to market forces alone. This is particularly so when the market takes a short term perspective.

We all know that short-term views can often have long term consequences for us socially, economically and environmentally. Too often these consequences are irreversible.

If we are to continue to enjoy the benefits of a healthy environment – for personal health and trade - it's important to get the whole community behind the concept of sustainability. If we are to protect our future assets, I believe we must take responsibility for nurturing a more sustainable society.

Of course one of the problems I find with the term "sustainable development" is that the words themselves don't seem to generate much excitement. The concept is inspiring – but the words can be hard to sell.

I know that you appreciate what sustainability does mean and how vital it is to our environmental future.

Sustainable development is like a three legged stool. The stool has three legs - social, economic and environment, and each leg has to be strong to enable the stool to stand up.

I think most New Zealanders recognise that our economy still relies on the primary sector. Indeed the present economic situation has reinforced for many of us, just how reliant we still are on the rural economy.

The question we need to ask is, do we want the primary sector to continue providing this type of input into our economy?
Answer: Yes.
The answer lies in our ability to heed the needs of future generations if they too are to benefit from the primary sector through a sustained and healthy environment.

It is no longer sufficient for farmers to produce without recognising the effects on the environment. Even today it is becoming increasingly important to justify and demonstrate that sustainable farming practices.

That's why it is so pleasing to see the success of an initiative like the Franklin Sustainability Project and this district is perfect for the project. It is uniquely endowed with superb soils and a benevolent climate that enables a vast range of productive activities.
The resulting intensity of agriculture however, can threaten the natural environment – the very resource that underpins this production.

Intensive land-use activities can adversely impact on the Franklin environment. I know that many local landowners are particularly concerned about soil erosion, as well as spraydrift, agricultural runoff to waterways, loss of indigenous flora and fauna, pests, and chemical buildup in soils, are other concerns. Indeed many of you will already have noted such events occurring in the district.

The Franklin Sustainability Project recognises these threats and seeks to understand the environment. It tries to find ways that commercial vegetable growing can operate whilst reducing adverse effects on the environment. In effect, the project seeks to find a sustainable future for vegetable growers.

Today's booklet launch further cements the Project work that has already recognised with a Green Ribbon Award. This award is not given lightly and acknowledges the contribution this project is making towards improved sustainable land management.

I would like to acknowledge the agencies that have supported this project - including the Franklin District Council, Environment Waikato, Auckland Regional Council, the Agriculture and Marketing Research and Development Trust, MAF, Agriculture New Zealand, and of course the Ministry for the Environment. (The Ministry gave a total $265,000 from the sustainable management fund.)

For this Labour-Alliance government, the fund is an important tool in promoting improved environmental outcomes. It provides a crucial link between the government and resource users, community groups, in their efforts to improve environmental performance in New Zealand.

As I have indicated, the coalition government is very supportive of sustainable development. For sustainable development to succeed it is crucial that sustainability is promoted through local community initiatives.

I acknowledge however that the government has a role to play too. This government is committed to providing direction and support for sustainable development throughout New Zealand. I’d like to give you just a brief flavour of some of the work being undertaken by the government to support sustainable development.

We are working with regional councils, and landowners to improve the way we use water. Water allocation is increasingly becoming a matter of contention, particularly in areas where competing uses vie for scarce water resources. It is important that we sustainably manage water resources and in doing so, we can increase production in the rural sector and improve environmental outcomes.

A matter that will be of particular interest to vegetable and crop growers is the recent setting up of a working party to investigate how best to manage spray drift concerns.
This is in the very early stages, but it is hoped the working party can find manageable ways to enable spraying to occur, while ensuring people’s protection from the adverse effects of agri-chemical sprays.

The government through the Ministry continues to work to improve practice under the Resource Management Act. This includes promoting best practice and fine-tuning of the Act. We are also working to encourage effective public participation and to provide more national guidance.

Some of you will be aware that the Ministry is developing environmental performance indicators, so that local government can consistently assess and report environmental issues. The Ministry is also working on national environmental standards to help provide the consistent protection of people’s health and the environment.

The Sustainable Management Fund that I referred to earlier continues to provide national funding for environmental projects that contribute to sustainable management of our environment.

As a government, we rely on all New Zealanders to recognise the importance of sustainable development, and for local communities to initiate their own projects to put into place ‘on the ground’ sustainable practices. The Franklin Sustainability Project is, in my opinion, a wonderful example of how local communities can do just that.

The preparation of this booklet and the work that led up to it, provides a superb example of what people can do to advance sustainable development in their own patch. I commend the work undertaken by the Pukekohe Vegetable Growers Association, the various stakeholders to this project, and the landowners that have taken on board the sustainability message.

I am hopeful that through the availability of this booklet and the ongoing work to support it that landowners in, and outside, the Franklin District can continue to work towards a sustainable future.

Again my congratulations on today's booklet launch.


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