Land­corp’s green em­brace

Taupo Times - - ROAR HEARD IN TAUPO OF THE CHESS BOARDS - GER­ARD HUTCHING

Out­go­ing Land­corp man­ager Phil McKenzie said the Crownowned en­tity would have de­vel­oped its huge Taupo hold­ings dif­fer­ently if it had en­gaged with en­vi­ron­men­tal groups ear­lier.

McKenzie is mov­ing on af­ter 36 years with Land­corp and said work­ing with con­tro­ver­sial en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists in the last two years had been a ‘‘great ex­pe­ri­ence’’.

Farm­ing lead­ers have been at the sharp end of judg­ments from peo­ple like fresh­wa­ter ecol­o­gist Dr Mike Joy and Fish and Game chief ex­ec­u­tive Bryce John­son, but for McKenzie the re­la­tion­ship has been pos­i­tive.

Land­corp’s En­vi­ron­men­tal Ref­er­ence Group (ERG) was set up in 2015 af­ter protests over its Wairakei Es­tates forestry to dairy farm con­ver­sions north of Taupo.

Mem­bers of the ERG in­clude Land­corp chief ex­ec­u­tive Steven Car­den, McKenzie, Joy, John­son, Guy Salmon, Dr Ali­son Dewes, Dr Tanira Kingi, Dave Maslen and Angus Robson.

‘‘They are out­spo­ken peo­ple and they are some­times char­ac­terised as peo­ple who want to break things rather than mend them,’’ McKenzie said.

The re­al­ity was the op­po­site, with a re­sult­ing chang­ing of per­cep­tions.

McKenzie de­scribes his role within the or­gan­i­sa­tion in the last few years as the bearer of ‘‘in­con­ve­nient truths’’ about the SOE’s en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment.

Wairakei Es­tate cur­rently com­prises 13 dairy farms with 17,000 cows over 6400 hectares. It had been planned to run 43,000 cows on 39 farms by 2021 but the plans have been scaled back.

Con­ver­sions from forestry to dairy be­gan in the early 2000s. McKenzie said Land­corp would have done things dif­fer­ently if it had early on been guided by the ERG.

‘‘A lot of that came out of this en­vi­ron­men­tal strat­egy. Our guys are now fully en­gaged, with some sug­gest­ing things so it’s like I’m get­ting a lec­ture com­ing back to me.’’

He de­scribes a sea change in the re­gion, and the end of in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion of Land­corp farms. The SOE was now plant­ing about 1000 ha a year of forests.

McKenzie said dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions would have to be made over fresh­wa­ter in the fu­ture, and how to deal fairly with farm­ers who had in­vested heav­ily, only to find stricter rules over nu­tri­ent run-off.

PHOTO: ROBERT STEVEN/FAIRFAXNZ

Car­los and Am­ber Rose car­ry­ing a tray of newly pot­ted New Zealand Flaxes to the Wairakei Es­tate nurs­ery last year.

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