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Warning to Farmers to Focus on Sustainability

Media Release

For Immediate Use


Environment Trust Chairman Warns Farmers to Stay Focussed on Sustainability


The issue of environmental sustainability needs to be taken seriously if farmers want to avoid the prospect of environmentally related tariffs and trading barriers, said Peter Nation, chairman of the NZ Farm Environment Award Trust (NZFEAT).

Speaking at NZFEAT’s annual meeting in October, Mr Nation said ongoing debate in the media suggested some people seem to be questioning the relevance of environmental sustainability.

“To those that think it is just a commercial branding exercise, I would advise them they are horribly wrong. The choice of spending lies firmly with those that pay at the supermarket counter and today’s consumers are concerned more than ever about what they are eating and where it has come from.”

Mr Nation said consumers both here and overseas want to be assured their food has come from a safe, environmentally-friendly source, otherwise farmers face the prospect of a consumer backlash and the imposition of tariffs and barriers by overseas trade partners.

“That’s something that neither New Zealand agriculture nor the economy at large can sustain.”

To ensure this didn’t happen, Mr Nation said New Zealand must continue to focus on improving farming practices while taking a leadership role in the area of environmental sustainability.

He said the NZFEAT-administered Ballance Farm Environment Awards were a good example of how farmers were making voluntary initiatives to improve environmental management.

Summarising the milestones achieved during the 2005/06 year, he said the awards had grown considerably in size and profile. Last year also saw a new region, Northland, joining the seven other regions already involved.

“Overall the awards had their biggest entry numbers nationally and entrants showed a noticeable lift in focus and understanding. This resulted in another group of high quality finalists at the National Showcase this year.”

Another major milestone for the Trust was the appointment of general manager David Natzke to oversee the continued growth of the Trust and the awards.

It is estimated that close to 500 people throughout the country are now involved with the awards and Mr Nation paid tribute to the many volunteers, sponsors, entrants, regional councils and other organisations that have made the awards the huge success they are today.

“But it is important that everyone remains focused on the objectives of the Trust and we need to concentrate on the positive impacts that this organisation can make on NZ agriculture.”

Mr Nation said urban dwellers and lifestyle farmers also stand to benefit from these positive impacts “and I still consider there is a need to increase awareness to these groups through community events and through schools and tertiary institutions”.

The NZFEAT annual meeting was held in Rotorua on October 10 and 11.

Entries for the Canterbury, Waikato, Northland, Wellington and Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards are now open. Southland, Otago and Horizons start on November 1.

Key sponsors include Ballance Agri-Nutrients, PPCS, Livestock Improvement Corporation, Gallagher Group, Hill Laboratories and PGG Wrightson.

The awards are also backed by Environment Waikato, Environment Bay of Plenty, the Greater Wellington Regional Council, Horizons Regional Council, Environment Canterbury, Otago Regional Council and the Northland Regional Council.

Farmers seeking more information on how to enter the awards can contact the sponsors or regional councils listed above, or go to the www.ballance.co.nz website.

ENDS

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