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New Zealand Farming at a Crossroads as the World’s Pak'nSave

New Zealand Farming at a Crossroads as the World’s Pak'nSave

The first session for the afternoon at the Public Health Association Conference in Christchurch today was an expert panel discussion on the theme 'Connection to place and environment'. Keynote speaker Dr Alison Dewes, a veterinarian, ecologist and farmer, spoke about current threats and opportunities for agriculture in New Zealand.

She said major disruption is on its way for our agriculture industry in terms of climate change, water quality, non-animal proteins, antibiotic resistance and losses of social licenses to operate; and that the inertia of our old way of doing things must change if our farmers are to meet the true external costs they now face.

“Agriculture is at a crossroads in New Zealand. We must move from being the Pak’nSave for the world as a low-cost commodity producer, to the farmers market for the global village,” she said.

“We must also learn to bridge the divide, where Tourism and Agriculture are locking horns over issues like water quality, and learn to lock hearts instead. If we’re going to keep farming animals and hope for continued access to markets, what story will we need to tell the world and how will we write that story?”

She said recent waterborne outbreaks of zoonotic disease have seen ‘clean and green’ New Zealand recently crowned as the campylobacter capital of the world?

“How did this happen and how is everything connected?”

Dr Dewes said healthy people, healthy ecosystems and healthy animals are key to a healthy future, but that all these things overlap.

“For example, where governments are bound by administrative authority, pests, contaminants and pathogens are controlled only by the laws of nature. What contributes to humans being healthy often sits outside the human health sector’s traditional role. The same is true for animal and ecosystem health.

“Current and future threats will therefore require coordinated cross-party and diverse skill sets to solve and for us to attain optimal health for people, animals and the environment."

Dr Dewes is a firm believer that our future food production systems have to be profitable and resilient while protecting and replenishing ecological health. Her Masters of Science (2015) focused on how Upper Waikato dairy farms can be profitable while achieving the lowest possible environmental impact.

She previously worked for Nestle Australia in Business Development & Quality Assurance, Commonwealth Bank in lending, and managed Intelact Australia. She has skills in animal health and nutrition, agricultural business performance, adult education, policy and ecosystem health. She was elected to the NZ Veterinary Board in 2015 and is on the National Environmental Reference Group for Landcorp. She was a finalist for the NZI sustainability champion in 2014, received a commendation for community impact for her work with farmers, and was a finalist in the 2015 Women of Influence Awards in Public Policy.


ENDS


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