There’s a huge amount of effort and relief behind that word.
It’s how Rotorua dairy farmers Chris Paterson and her husband Jamie felt when they heard about the Environment Court’s August 2019 decision on the Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s Plan Change 10. The plan's focus is on improving the water quality of Lake Rotorua through nutrient management (see dairynz.co.nz/PC10).
The court endorsed the plan's nitrogen allocation methodology, based on a sector range approach which recognises dry stock and dairy farms’ differing needs for nutrients. An appeal was lodged with the court for consideration of a different allocation method based on Land Use Capability (LUC), which allocated the lake's nitrogen load by soil type, meaning some land got more nitrogen and some got a lot less. Federated Farmers, some individual farmers and the council opposed that allocation method in the court hearings. DairyNZ provided financial and economic modelling support.
Chris says if the decision had endorsed LUC, “there wouldn’t have been any dairy farming left in this catchment. Having that recorded in the Environment Court decision is going to help all farmers around New Zealand.
“We’re so thankful to DairyNZ for their support, which meant our submissions were based on scientific evidence,” says Chris.
“I also take my hat off to Neil Heather, our current chairman of the Collective. He and the Collective have worked really hard to ensure the dry stock and dairy sectors worked together harmoniously – we’ve included dry stock reps on our committees.”
DairyNZ was initially involved in the establishment of the Collective. Since then, Chris says DairyNZ’s ongoing support has come from every level, from consulting officers to scientists and strategists. That’s included putting together specific economic reports and science trials to back up farmers’ and the Collective's submissions. (Note: DairyNZ and Fonterra had jointly submitted on the plan to support the allocation method developed by the council in consultation with the stakeholder group.)
“The DairyNZ Board and CEO Tim Mackle have taken a personal interest in our story too, including visiting our farm’s science trials in 2018. The fact that the Board has taken an interest has made people here feel really appreciated. Board chair Jim van der Poel also rang and congratulated us on the announcement.
“It’s that ‘open door’ policy that DairyNZ has, that 'team ag' approach. We’ve been working really closely with Federated Farmers, but DairyNZ’s been right there alongside us as well.”
The Patersons and the Lake Rotorua Primary Producers’ Collective are now gearing up for Stage 2 of the Environment Court process. Chris says their success so far shows farmers leading change at policy level means fronting up and telling their stories.
“It’s really important that farmers come and face up to these guys. Tell their story, tell and show them how they operate, what they’ve done to improve their farming system. It drew a picture for the commissioners, and they came to understand.”
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy November 2019