Sunday, 4 March 2012

We All Cast Our Shadow on The Environment..NZ Landcare Trust Conference

  “We are born into the shadow of our parents & eventually we create our own shadow”. Powerful story telling from George Matthews (a NZ Landcare Trustee) opened the NZ Landcare Trust Conference in Hamilton NZ.
Although his Maori proverb has to do with life itself….we all do cast our shadow on the environment in which we live & farm. Our Earth’s environment is in trouble. It was Albert Einstein who said that …” Insanity: was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
 We need to see farmers as the solution rather than the problem. A cultural change of attitude is now necessary to stop accelerating deterioration in water quality of our rivers in New Zealand. The blaming game needs to stop as its creating rifts between city & country. We need to view improving the environment as a joint responsibility.
We need to work together as communities both city & country/European & Iwi (Maori) together side by side.

Last week at the NZ Landcare Trust conference they appointed 6 “Landcare Ambassadors”. Their task is to help move communities both rural & urban to change to a better environment with better water quality & more biodiversity where we live & farm.  These new Ambassadors have all excelled in their own rural communities in leading by example, to show that if the whole community can work together improvements are possible & the environment will respond to the care & attention. These outstanding Landcare Trust leaders have made big changes on their own farms but equally they have led their local communities to all contribute & “come onboard”. The worldwide Landcare movement is about rural & urban communities working together in small groups such as landowners in the same water/river catchment. Landcare is a wonderful model for improving & creating a sustainable environment. The challenge is to change farmer’s mind-set from one of “Stoic Independents” to a shared community responsibility & engaging with the non-farming sector. “Collaboration not Conflict”!
Landcare provides an opportunity for those who care & want to contribute to a better environment. I'd like to see many more farmers attend the NZ Landcare Trust Conference.
The majority of farmers in Australia belong to a local Landcare group & I’d like to see this happen in New Zealand & in fact in every country throughout the world. It’s about getting people to act, not because they have to but because they really care.
The six NZ Landcare Trust Ambassadors are: - Helen Moodie (a DairyNZ Consulting Officer) & her partner Todd Hamilton- Whangarei Heads, Andrew Hayes (Waikato Dairy farmer), Sue Brown (Aorere Dairy farmer), Fred Lichtwark Whaingaroa Harbourcare Raglan, Doug Avery Malborough, & Geoff Crutchley from the Upper Taieri River.
 It’s great that this list includes two dairy farmers, one DairyNZ Consulting Officer & the Whaingaroa Harbourcare project at Raglan involves a lot of local dairy farmers. Those who are quick to criticise dairy farmers should take note that dairy farmers are also leading the way to work with their communities in innovative ways to improve the quality of water in lakes, rivers & harbours.  This is a good news story for NZ dairy farmers!
However NZ dairy farmers can’t rest on the laurels of the NZ Landcare Trust Dairying Ambassadors.
All NZ dairy farmers need to smartly fence off all waterways & it is important that these are planted with appropriate trees. This is to prevent it becoming a weed problem, to protect the stream banks & finally to help keep the water temperature cool. This is only the start of a long journey to improve the environment.
NZ dairy farmers need to accept that intensification & increased dairy cow numbers in many parts of NZ is having a detrimental impact on the environment through the Nitrogen loading.
One positive step all dairy farmers can take is to organise a whole farm plan which identifies the different soils & combine this with land capability maps. This will identify which areas of the farm you may need to change the land use e.g. plant trees on some steep slopes or fence off wetlands. These steps are not a backward step but rather will enhance the aesthetic appearance, protect & increase the long term land values of the farm.
At the NZ Landcare Trust Conference the Northland Totara Working Group presented a compelling argument for dairy farmers using Totara on many of their steeper poor pasture areas on farms throughout NZ as Totara is an incredibly versatile species. Information on how to use Totara, which trees to plant on stream banks & how to create wetlands can all be gathered from your local Landcare Trust Officer.  
Since I worked in Australia when the Australian Landcare movement  started back in the 1980s I have been a huge fan & advocate for all farmers to join or form a local Landcare group. Today there are many urban groups as well & this is fantastic!
So do you belong to a local Landcare group? If not you need to as your farm will benefit & you will be helping to change the environment for the benefit of everyone especially your grandchildren!

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