A farmer's recipe for healthy water

By Chris Allen

As the world grows in population so does our need for growth in food production. In order to feed the ever-increasing mouths at a global and national level, New Zealand's agricultural trade grows in significance.

Every country has a trade strength, which their economy leans on and New Zealand is no different. We specialise in agriculture and have done a fantastic job of showing the world we are a country to pay attention to, pulling in some $20 billion a year from pastoral agriculture.

With the increasing pressure for farmers to ramp up production, remain competitive and be environmentally sustainable, the question now is how we achieve this? What are our priorities as a nation? And what is the cost?

Environment Canterbury's Land and Water plan has been trying to solve just that, but what planners have yet to realise is that farmers are not made of money and their stringent rules and timeframes will trap a significant number of farms in a production time-warp

We need a sustainable approach to clean up our waterways, not a witch hunt.

Below is a recipe to tenderise souring relationships and ensure we navigate this sensitive issue successfully.



A dash of sensible policy

A sprinkle of constructive collaboration

A dollop of responsibility

A touch of practicality

A spoonful of hard work

A pinch of ingenuity.


A dash of sensible policy - Use consistency and certainty with policy for water users and set sensible guidelines so we can respond to changing conditions around water's value and demand.

It is important to get the limit-setting right. Local economies could suffer if policy frameworks do not deliver a science-based and balanced approach reflecting economic reality.

A sprinkle of constructive collaboration - Understand and address all needs and values around water use. Canterbury's land and water resources will respond effectively with a dusting of respect.

A dollop of responsibility - Take your nitrogen loss and understand how it impacts the environment and where you can improve.

It starts with each individual proactively understanding their part and consciously mitigating effects, understanding that properties leaching nitrogen are wasting money.

A touch of practicality - It won't happen overnight. Measuring nitrogen-leaching levels is tricky. You cannot see it, and models used to measure are not perfect, but they can help. 'Gut feelings' are not valid measuring tools either. To achieve positive outcomes, positive economic viability needs to be proven first, as well as a level-headed approach.

A spoonful of hard work - Burying your head in the sand will not make this go away. Understand your nutrient budget. From that you can determine where you sit on the nitrogen-loss bell curve and why. Be prepared to invest in changing your farming systems. If you are lucky, mitigating nitrogen losses could be as simple as modifying nitrogen fertiliser applications.

A pinch of ingenuity - Science is your friend and soil testing will produce a more definitive profile of high and low-fertility areas, which fertiliser regimes can be adjusted towards. Look to industry for innovation and technologies that will help reduce your losses.

Now mix all ingredients together and bake.

Note: This recipe is applicable to all provinces and we appreciate your feedback as taste-testers.

Bon appetit!

- Hamilton News

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