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New Funding Recognises Rural Sector’s Strong Focus On Sustainability

The Government’s investment of more than $6 million into farmer-led projects to improve water health in Canterbury and Otago reinforces the important sustainability work already undertaken by the rural sector says Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Leeann Watson.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has announced that the funding will be spent on helping farmers improve the health of rivers, wetlands, and habitat biodiversity in the two regions, as well as improving long-term land management practices.

Four farmer-led catchment group Jobs for Nature projects have been allocated between $176,000 and $2.3m over the next three years, including $362,000 for a North Otago sustainable land management riparian project, $2.2m for the Tinaku project in Ellesmere and $176,000 for the Pomahaka wetland restoration project. An additional $2.9m will go towards helping about 300 Hurunui farmers work towards land and water improvements through the application of farm environment planning and sustainable land management practices.

Ms Watson says the funding for the environmental improvement work is recognition of the significant work undertaken by the rural sector to date.

"The majority of farmers are very focused on improving and protecting their land for future generations, and many have been early adopters of environment management plans for the last seven or eight years, so it is good to see this recognised through this funding support.

"Environmental stewardship is also an important area in terms of securing market access for food and fibre, so this funding will play a role in helping to boost our agriculture exports - a key economic driver for the region, which was particularly evident through COVID."

Ms Watson says the Government’s prioritisation of sustainability issues sends a strong signal that this issue has not been overlooked in the COVID environment.

"Preserving the health of rivers, wetlands, and habitat biodiversity has always been a key issue for the region, so we are encouraged to see the Government addressing this challenging issue in partnership with the farming sector and hope that it is a signal for the Government’s approach to accompanying sector regulations and other sustainability issues.

"That these projects are farmer-led is also positive, as we see across all sectors, a focus on Government working in partnership with industry is imperative in order to see traction on these kinds of initiatives."

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