The DairyNZ-supported group comprises 11 Southland dairy farmers who are taking their expertise off-farm and into the community to work with others on environmental issues.
The group will interact with industry and stakeholders, providing farmer opinion on policy and environmental decisions, and will also communicate back to other farmers.
Advisory group chair Raewyn van Gool says they want to develop long-term sustainable solutions by working more closely with the community as issues arise.
“We want a collaborative approach to how long-term solutions are developed. A lot of different community groups are involved in many of these initiatives and working together really is the best way to solve issues,” says Raewyn.
“Many of the group’s members have already embarked on setting up catchment groups to improve water quality in a community waterway or have gone above and beyond on their own farms.
“We are also all alumni of the Dairy Environment Leaders Forum – the dairy industry’s leadership programme which each year hosts environmentally-focused farmers.”
The Dairy Leaders Advisory Group’s overall goal is to help develop the best solutions to environmental issues in the region and contribute to the development and promotion of industry views on policy changes.
For example, Raewyn says they hope to provide input into the Water and Land Plan being notified shortly by Environment Southland and would like to be involved in future initiatives and policies relating to waterways.
Raewyn says the advisory group was pleased to note the good progress in the recently released Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord – Two Years On report. This includes the very high 95 percent effluent compliance rates in Southland and the 96 percent of New Zealand dairy farms where dairy cattle are excluded from waterways.
Raewyn and husband Tony own a 410 cow, 152ha farm in the Waituna catchment, where their conservation efforts began in 2000 by fencing off a significant wetland, putting land into QEII Trust, completing riparian planting and fencing waterways.
The couple have worked closely with many local and national organisations over the years.
DairyNZ Southland catchment engagement coordinator Julia Christie says the Dairy Leaders Advisory Group wants to improve environmental outcomes.
“They’re a group of skilled dairy farmers who have a particular interest in the environment and how policy decisions affect them,” says Julia.
“They want to raise awareness both within the dairy industry, as well as in the community, by supporting community-based solutions.”
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