Hundreds of dairy farmers attended a series of farmer meetings and community workshops to learn about the regional council’s plans for restoring and protecting the Waikato and Waipa rivers to meet its vision and strategy for the next 80 plus years. An online survey was also completed by 561 people including a large number of dairy farmers.
At DairyNZ and farmer-led meetings, 450 farmers received an update on the Healthy Rivers collaborative process including modelling results and the proposed policy mix. Farmers also contributed to the discussion.
Bill Wasley, the independent chair of a Collaborative Stakeholder Group (CSG), said that the river water quality had taken a long time to get to its current state and was going to take time to fix.
“The Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora process is the start of an extended journey towards the goals of making the rivers swimmable and fishable along their entire length. The feedback we’ve had at the workshops is very valuable for making choices about the way ahead.”
Discussion points at the DairyNZ meetings included:
- Business as usual is not an option
- Establishing that farmers were willing to contribute to the solution
- Modelling results of scenarios for restoring water quality
- The potential impacts of changes on the way farmers operate
- The cost to farmers and communities
- The importance of maintaining vibrant communities
Waikato farmer Chris Falconer, who attended a workshop, says the Healthy Rivers process has seen much good data collated to help inform the CSG.
“This has bought the entire community and its wellbeing, under proposed plan changes, into sharp focus and highlights the importance of dairy farming to the catchment.
“Sensible timeframes and picking off options that deliver most “bang for buck” should enable farmers to adjust and adapt their systems for the good of water quality, while enabling them to continue profitably and support the communities they live in, says Chris.
The Collaborative Stakeholder Group continues to meet to develop the recommendation on the plan change. The recommendation will be presented to the Healthy Rivers Wai Ora committee (Waikato regional councillors and river iwi). It will then be presented to a regional council meeting before being notified for public submissions. This is expected to be about mid-2016.
If you have any questions, please contact Mike Bramley, Environmental Extension Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org or 027 497 8790