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Fish & Game Council visits Waikato Dairy Farms

29 May 2008


New Zealand Fish & Game Council visits Waikato Dairy Farms.

New Zealand Fish & Game Councillors got their gumboots on during a visit to Waikato dairy farms hosted by DairyNZ and Environment Waikato last weekend [23-25 May]. "The visits provided an excellent opportunity for New Zealand Fish & Game Councillors to see first hand how environmental issues could be managed on the farm, and to discuss sustainable agriculture with some of the people walking the talk," said Rob Roney, Chairman New Zealand Council (NZC).

The NZC first met with DairyNZ (Tim Mackle, Chief Executive, Ted Coats Board Member, Rick Pridmore Strategy and Investment Leader Sustainability, and Bruce Thorrold Strategy and Investment Leader, Productivity) at Ruakura, Hamilton before visiting the research property at Scotts Farm. The focus of the discussion was behaviour change on farms. Tim Mackle noted that, "we're both after the same thing; to enhance economic and environmental sustainability with DairyNZ allocating around $26 million of dairy farmers' money on sustainability and biosecurity projects. While 90% of dairy farmers do have a responsible approach to environmental sustainability, we also have a responsibility to provide clarity on the best ways to farm sustainably so all farmers can act positively. A key aspect to this will be our two groups staying engaged in a constructive dialogue."

Visits to two working dairy farms were hosted by Peter Buckley, Chairman of Environment Waikato and senior staff. Peter Buckley welcomed the opportunity to meet with Fish and Game, and farmers to discuss areas of common interest and look at various solutions for achieving environmentally sustainable dairying.

"It was really worthwhile to look at on-the-ground examples of sustainable farming practice. We looked at two different types of dairy farming systems, both focused on production but with processes that minimise environmental impacts," Peter said. "We must all work together to achieve change and it was greatly encouraging to have frank discussions over what is possible and achievable on farms. I suggest the best solutions are pragmatic solutions developed by realistic, practical and pragmatic people. I welcome opportunities to keep this discussion going into the future."

The visits were organised around a routine NZC meeting agenda and contributed to a full and busy weekend for councillors and Fish & Game staff. Summarising the weekend's events, Rob Roney said, "The Council saw two organisations working towards environmentally sustainable agriculture, and two working farms demonstrating a commitment to best environmental practice. In this respect, the visits were valuable, interesting and encouraging. Yet sadly, we continue to see the deterioration of the quality of New Zealand's lowland waterways - evidenced by formal reports, the latest being the Ministry for the Environment's "Environment New Zealand 2007", and our by first hand experience. We know there are well understood solutions and practices for environmental sustainability, and we acknowledge that many farmers have these in place. The key issue is to improve the uptake of these on all dairy farms, fine tune those practices that can be improved, and make environmental sustainability an essential condition for farming, rather than a voluntary add-on. The good work by many dairy farmers is being let down by some, and the industry and its suppliers deserve better."

"Our task now is to work towards helping achieve 100% environmental performance throughout the primary sector, and to achieve that quickly. I ask farmers to recognise that Fish & Game's advocacy for clean water is not a blanket criticism of all farmers, and that we acknowledge the good work many farmers are doing. However, we make no apologies for fighting to protect and enhance New Zealand's finite freshwater resources, and we will continue to draw attention to poor practices and casual compliance. At the same time, we congratulate and support those farmers doing their bit, and look for ways we can help them by insisting that the poor performers measure up."

"The visits enabled a first hand look at good farming practice and enhanced the opportunity for constructive dialogue between Fish & Game and our hosts. We now need to work to maintain this constructive dialogue. The NZC sincerely appreciates the warm welcome and considerable efforts afforded to the NZC by DairyNZ and Environment Waikato and their governors and senior staff, and the generous hospitality and openness of the farmers who welcomed the Council to their farms to view their operations. A special thanks to Joan and Peter De Renzy and their sharemillkers Craig and Hannah Fulton on Puketutu Road, Matamata, and Joss Van Loon of Delta Farms, Putaruru."

ENDS

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