Feds' Eye on the North: Cause for celebration

By John Blackwell

John Blackwell
John Blackwell

Farmers' environmental credentials have been under attack of late, but this research highlights just one way that those who work the land also strive to look after it.

The Federated Farmers' AGM season has come and gone in Northland, with a hard-working team re-elected at the meeting at the Kaikohe RSA.

The only change to our executive is a new chairman for Kaipara. Baden Bickers, a dairy farmer at Tokatoka, will bring a wealth of knowledge born of the many generations his family has farmed in the Kaipara.

With four councils in the area, and a stack of plans and budgets to submit on, the federation's policy staff and elected officers have been busy in April and May. We enjoyed a success for farmers with the Far North District Council's proposed waste management plan.

The original proposal was that all non-organic waste (old fences, silage wrap, etc) needed to be disposed of at a transfer station.

This would have cost farmers up to $6967 a year, plus transporting cost. We demonstrated to the council that farmers already had viable alternative recycling or disposal options. This saving would pay a rural landowner's Feds membership fee for many years.

Credit where it's due, the Far North council makes good use of the hearing process and is not afraid to change its view when good alternatives are tabled. That is what I believe Federated Farmers does well; we draw attention to an issue, but just as important, we look to offer a practicable solution.

Down on my farm I have just weighed 450kg bulls, one of which gained 2.1kg per day.

That says something about the farming conditions of late; usually in April we are emerging from drought.

Another piece of positive news was the release on Tuesday of a study by the University of Waikato Institute for Business Research.

The report highlights the impact of that is land placed under covenant via the QE II National Trust. Farmers' environmental credentials have been under attack of late, but this research highlights just one way that those who work the land also strive to look after it.

The institute found that covenanting landowners, the majority of whom are farmers, are together spending an estimated $25 million of their own money every year to protect native species, forests, wetlands and other special areas in their QEII covenants.

The QEII Trust was founded in 1977 after lobbying by former Federated Farmers national dairy chairman Gordon Stephenson, who two years later established the first covenant over a 4ha stand of native bush on his Putaruru farm.

Over the next 40 years more than 4300 property owners, including nearly 700 in Northland, have followed suit. In total those landowners have made a financial commitment of between $1.1 and $1.3 billion in direct or lost opportunity costs establishing and maintaining land under covenant.

Gordon Stephenson's philosophy was that kaitiakitanga of the land for future generations was an honour rather than a chore. Most Kiwi farmers share that outlook.

- Northland Age

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