Member engagement key for group

Member engagement key for group
South Otago sheep and beef farmer Simon Davies is the new president of Otago Federated Farmers.

South Otago sheep and beef farmer Simon Davies is a little apprehensive about entering his new role as president of Otago Federated Farmers, with a lot on his plate in the advocacy, policy, and environmental space.
“My wife Joanna said to me the day before I took on the role ‘are you sure you want to do this? You may not come out smelling of roses.’ But I’ve never smelt of roses and probably never will!” He says one of Federated Farmers’ biggest hurdles is a lot of the work done by the organisation is unseen.
“It’s boring stuff, legislation and advocacy work and while that will continue, we need to do a bit more shouting from the rooftops and getting involved with a lot more stakeholders. The previous National President and board has made quite a significant change from when I first joined the organisation three years ago. Federated Farmers used to shout and scream and not get invited back to meetings, but we can’t make a comment if we’re not in the room.”
Going forward, Otago Federated Farmers will be working on its interactions to improve the results of its advocacy for farmers, then relaying back its successes to its members. “Member engagement is a big part of it,” Simon says.
“A lot of our members are silent, they pay their subscriptions and don’t see a lot. I think if they saw what we did and got involved and were engaged, paying their membership wouldn’t be a big problem.”
Simon wants to engage with all stakeholders to make sure everyone understands where farmers are coming from, and why they do what they do.
“Going forward that’s very much an intention of mine, to spend a lot more a lot of time with the Otago Regional Council and the food processing companies to make sure we are all going in the same direction, and dragging everyone else along with us, kicking and screaming if we have to,” he says.
“If people don’t want to be dragged along kicking and screaming, my opinion is shape up or ship out for the good of the industry. The industry needs to get the ones struggling at the bottom of the heap and either help them to shape up or help them to ship out.”
One of Simon’s challenges is Otago being a really big province with some distinct geographical differences.
“Farming here in South Otago is very different from farming in Central Otago. I’m comfortable with the issues here but I don’t have much experience of what’s going on in Central. I’ll be relying on assistance from the others up there and I’ll try to learn what I can as fast as I can when I need to.”
Affecting all of Otago is Otago Regional Council’s Plan 6A, a freshwater management plan which is somewhat unique in New Zealand.
“It’s very much an effects based plan, providing the effects go in the right direction you can pretty much do what you like within certain guidelines. I think it’s a wonderful plan. The biggest concern I have is the current Government has said if the plan does not appear to be fixing the problem, the central Government will come and take over.”

Member engagement key for group
The Otago Regional Council’s freshwater management plan is one of the issues facing new Otago Federated Farmers president Simon Davies.

He says under Plan 6A, Otago farmers are in control of their own destiny and they need to get on board. “If it changes, we will not be in control.”
Federated Farmers has a new education initiative in the pipelines to give Otago farmers the right tools and information about what is required.
“There is a window of opportunity to get things sorted. Farmers have got to get involved and start doing things on farm now.”
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