‘New industry’ around constraints

‘New industry’ around constraints

Farmers facing increasingly stringent environmental regulations is a hot topic for Federated Farmers’ leaders throughout New Zealand, Rotorua Taupo provincial president Alan Wills says.
“The whole environmental situation is on every president’s agenda and it never sleeps. It’s developing all the time and farmers are having to get their heads around it.”
“I encourage farmers to get on with understanding what is all about, accepting that there will be change, and if you don’t like change it could be a difficult time for you.”
Despite the challenges created by proposed regulations such as Waikato Regional Council’s Proposed Plan Change 1, Alan believes opportunities will be created. “There’s going to be a whole new industry established around helping farmers get the best result out of nutrient constraints and what’s expected of them.”
Milk processing companies, private consultants, fertiliser companies and industry organisations such as Dairy NZ, who have a huge vested interest in supporting farmers and the rural economy, will have teams of advisers to help farmers determine how they can operate under any constraints, he says.
“We are involved in the problem, and we’ve got to be part of the solution and take a positive and constructive approach to it.”
“Farmers are pretty determined to get this right, but it’s not going to happen overnight.” The proposed plan change hearing process will provide the opportunity to put a case for some redirection of aspects of the plan.
As a provincial president, Alan and his Rotorua/ Taupo Team are involved with the Waikato and Auckland provinces and Federated Farmers policy staff in Hamilton in preparing submissions on the Healthy Rivers plan change.
“The plan needs to have an emphasis on the needs of individual catchments, which will be different depending on where you are on the river. The farming community will have a real vested interest in their local catchment and will, I am sure, find it easier to take some ownership if there is a need for change.
“The proposed plan is a particularly blunt instrument approach and when farmers are expected to prepare accurate and professionally prepared farm environment plans, the application of those plans needs to be more targeted and specific.”
Alan agrees public pressure on the dairy industry around the environment and particularly water quality, has “absolutely” been ramped up over the past two or three years through traditional and social media.
Farmers have done much to mitigate the environmental impact of their operations in recent years through nutrient budgeting, fencing of waterways and riparian planting, but they struggle to tell their story to the urban community, he says.
He and his wife Alison own two farms at Reporoa, half-way between Lakes Taupo and Rotorua in the Waikato River catchment.
Their home farm is 176ha and peak milks 490 cows, and a neighbouring block of 100ha bought three years ago from Alan’s mother’s estate, milks 290 cows.
Both farms have two tributaries of the Waikato River running their full length. “They are all fenced and we have an annual riparian planting programme.”
Lower order sharemilkers are on both farms: the Wills’ son Hamish and his partner Tracey run the home farm while the 100ha farm is run by Josh and Ashleigh Manville, who previously worked on the home farm.
Alan’s most pressing environmental challenge is to upgrade the storage on the home farm’s 34 year old effluent pond.
He is hoping a drop test, conducted by Opus and which measures the pond level over 48 hours, will indicate there is no leakage. “If it is sealed it will give me another two or three years and give me the opportunity to access any new technology.”
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