4 things you need to know about the

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Country Smile -

1This is all to do with fresh water. We’ve all heard the hor­ror sto­ries of pol­lu­tion in wa­ter­ways and lakes from treated and un­treated ef­flu­ent, al­gal blooms, ex­ces­sive weed and pest growth, and peo­ple get­ting sick or be­ing un­able to use fresh­wa­ter, mostly due to nu­tri­ent run-off from fer­tiliser and live­stock. The Govern­ment’s re­sponse was to cre­ate The Na­tional Pol­icy State­ment for Fresh­wa­ter Man­age­ment, which re­quires re­gional coun­cils to safe­guard fresh­wa­ter for health rea­sons. The new rules around farm­ing are the coun­cils work­ing to ful­fil their new re­spon­si­bil­i­ties un­der that pol­icy

Words & im­ages Gina Mcken­zie

DAR­RYL BROWN says he’s made some sur­pris­ing dis­cov­er­ies dur­ing the process of record gath­er­ing and map­ping out his farm af­ter join­ing a pi­lot project run by En­vi­ron­ment Can­ter­bury to help farmers com­plete Farm En­vi­ron­ment Plans (FEPS).

One hun­dred farmers across the Waimakariri and Se­lywn dis­tricts are in­volved in the one-on-one pi­lot project which helps farmers with­out in­dus­try sup­port to com­plete their FEPS.

“I was sur­prised by what you find out from the farm map­ping sys­tem. We’ve al­ways gath­ered lots of records but putting these all to­gether in one place gives you a new over­view of the en­tire farm.

“Now we can see ar­eas where we’re over or un­der ir­ri­gat­ing and we’ve al­ready got plans to make our ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems more ef­fi­cient with in­creased mon­i­tor­ing. It also shows where we’ve spread fer­tiliser and the move­ment of green feed crops and re­grass­ing. It helps you see how ev­ery­thing is con­nected. If there’s a lot of rain or some­thing un­ex­pected hap­pens it helps you look at things dif­fer­ently and ad­just what you’re do­ing on the farm to even ev­ery­thing out.

“I think this is es­pe­cially im­por­tant for farms like ours that have grown and changed over time. Since 1968 our farm has grown from 225 acres to over 1200 acres so we’re def­i­nitely hav­ing an im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment.”

Waimakariri Zone Com­mit­tee man­ager An­drew Arps says the pi­lot project is help­ing farmers like Dar­ryl who might oth­er­wise fall be­tween the gaps to com­plete their FEPS by mid-2017.

“We’ve iden­ti­fied 50 farmers in Waimakariri with farms over 50 hectares who don’t be­long to in­dus­try bod­ies or ir­ri­ga­tion schemes and we’re now en­gag­ing with them on a one-on-one ba­sis.

“When you don’t have any in­dus­try sup­port it is much harder to get started on the process so we want to give farmers all the help they need to com­plete their FEPS.

“Be­ing proac­tive and get­ting to know farmers is a re­ally im­por­tant part of the process. We’re help­ing them to un­der­stand why it’s im­por­tant to do a farm en­vi­ron­ment plan and how this can ben­e­fit their farm and the en­vi­ron­ment.”

Dar­ryl cred­its An­drew’s farm vis­its with help­ing him move for­ward with his plan while also pro­vid­ing a pos­i­tive learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It’s a bit scary at first and hard to know where to start but with An­drew’s help I have been able to start the process. He talks through cer­tain things that you’re do­ing on the farm to get you to think a

bit dif­fer­ently or chal­lenge you on dif­fer­ent things you’re do­ing and at the end of the day this is ben­e­fit­ing the farm’s profit and the whole en­vi­ron­ment.”

It takes time to gather records and re­view farm sys­tems but Dar­ryl be­lieves that the pos­i­tive ben­e­fits to farmers and the en­vi­ron­ment far out­weigh the time spent on an FEP.

“It does take a while to do your re­search and get all your records to­gether, but you’ll get that back and more over the long term. Mak­ing the en­tire farm more ef­fi­cient means you’re us­ing less re­sources and you’ll have more money in the bot­tom line.”

For Dar­ryl, pro­tect­ing the wa­ter­ways around his farm has al­ways been a pri­or­ity, es­pe­cially as the spring­head for Sil­ver­stream is lo­cated on his prop­erty.

“It’s re­ally im­por­tant to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment, es­pe­cially the wa­ter­ways and I know that it is a pri­or­ity for most farmers be­cause with­out a clean en­vi­ron­ment we’re putting our liveli­hood at risk.

“We’ve got our streams fenced off and plan to do more na­tive ri­par­ian plant­ing and move the fences back an­other three to five me­tres.

“We’re also plant­ing more na­tive trees along the north­ern side of all the streams that run through the farm. It helps im­prove the water qual­ity and we don’t need to clean out the stream as much be­cause the na­tive plant­ing shades the stream and stops the weeds grow­ing in the stream.

“Pro­tect­ing the ecosys­tem is im­por­tant be­cause it keeps ev­ery­thing in bal­ance and it will be of ben­e­fit for gen­er­a­tions to come.”

Be­ing able to chat in­for­mally to An­drew and re­ceiv­ing prac­ti­cal ad­vice has also given Dar­ryl a new out­look on how En­vi­ron­ment Can­ter­bury is work­ing with farmers.

“There has been a bit of a stigma about Ecan in the past but I’ve seen a real change with this type of one-on-one ap­proach and I’ve found it fan­tas­tic. It’s just more re­laxed hav­ing a chat about what you’re do­ing and see­ing how a farm en­vi­ron­ment plan to­gether can ben­e­fit farm prof­its and the en­vi­ron­ment gives you a rea­son to get started.

“If you look at New Zealand and the world in gen­eral, ev­ery­one is chang­ing the way they look at re­sources and the en­vi­ron­ment whether they live in the cities or ru­ral ar­eas. We all have a part to play and if all farmers get on board and do a farm en­vi­ron­ment plan we can work to­gether to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment.”

An­drew says the pi­lot pro­gramme isn’t just fo­cused on get­ting farmers to com­plete their farm en­vi­ron­ment plans but is part of a wider en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment project.

“While we want all farmers to com­plete their farm en­vi­ron­ment plans the real suc­cess ac­tu­ally comes from see­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal plan­ning be­ing part of ev­ery­day life and ac­cepted busi­ness prac­tice for farmers.” n

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