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Second dung beetle offer focused on Wairarapa farmers

Another discounted offer of dung beetle packages is now available for Wairarapa farmers as Greater Wellington Regional Council steps up its strategy of using insects to manage dairy effluent and nutrient run-off into rural streams, rivers and lakes.

The second region-wide release, in partnership with Dung Beetle Innovations Ltd, started on 7 November and discounted beetle packages will be available until 9 December.

The purpose of the partnership is to help communities looking for cleaner fresh water and farmers seeking higher productivity.

Each year here in New Zealand more than 100 million tonnes of cattle, sheep and horse dung is produced covering productive pastures. Farm run off entering waterways is an issue we are facing across agricultural landscapes in New Zealand which are impacting our waterways.

Four species of non-native dung beetle are being offered to famers throughout the region in packages designed to encourage on-farm take up. Packages are discounted by 50 per cent within priority catchments in the Wellington Region and by 20 per cent elsewhere.

Early adopters since 2016, and former winner of Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards, the LIC Dairy Farm Award and the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Habitat Improvement Award, Carterton dairy farmers Ray and Lyn Craig are enthusiastic about the potential benefits of dung beetles on their farm.

“I was looking for non-invasive ways to control pests and improve soil condition in our pasture, and dung beetles are cost-effective – they just work away, they’re very cheap workers. Their tunnelling promotes soil aeration, root growth, improved drainage and better water quality,” says Ray Craig.

“I’m a very results-based famer. Ultimately, what I’m looking for from dung beetles is better soil, extra grass and higher productivity, without too much cost in time and money.

“Investment in dung beetles isn’t a punt, the benefits are well documented. They are not a leap into the unknown. Dung beetles have been on my farm for a couple of years. I can see them starting to spread, they should be pretty active by now.”

According to Greater Wellington deputy chair and Wairarapa representative Adrienne Staples “Greater Wellington wants to drive better freshwater quality in Wairarapa. Nutrient build up and run off is a key priority and the dung beetle option is one we are happy to support.

“We were encouraged by our first offer to farmers, which resulted in 7350 hectares of land in our region under coverage from dung beetles following farmer investment. We’re now making the offer again and we expect lots of interest.

“We know there’s a lot of pressure on farmers to take action on improving the health of waterways. We’re offering one solution through this discounted programme,” says Cr Staples.

Dung Beetle workshops for farmers will take place at Kahutara on Wednesday 27 November and at Mangatarere on Thursday 28 November. The first of this season’s beetles will be sent to farms from mid-December 2019. Farmers interested in investing in dung beetles should go to www.gw.govt.nz/dung-beetles

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