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