Otago Regional Council chief executive Sarah Gardner hopes farmers will work together in partnership with the council to benefit communities in the region.

Mrs Gardner, who recently took over the position, was speaking at Otago Federated Farmers' annual meeting in Balclutha last week.

While she was still very much in the learning phase, she said it had been a great start and acknowledged the importance of farming to New Zealand's economy and the Otago region.

"Farming has a long history and it's very integral to our identity and also to our economy as a region," she said.


The council did have a regulatory role, but she hoped that farmers' engagement with ORC was "so much more than that".

The council could not be successful in its work if it was not working together with organisations like Federated Farmers and other farmers.

There were some challenges in the region, including water allocation and quality, and there were several hundred deemed permits expiring by 2021 and some allocation decisions would need to be made that would be difficult.

Mrs Gardner attended an event in Gore last month that examined future directions of farm-based food production in New Zealand, and was inspired by what farmers were doing. Some great work had been done and there were some important stories to be told.

In their report, policy advisers David Cooper and Kim Reilly said the expiry of mining privileges/deemed permits was a significant process for the farmers involved.

Federated Farmers had put together a fact-sheet on the process and attended various meetings with farmers and affected parties.

It would also continue working with the ORC and key stakeholders to develop a method for working through the ecological and cultural requirements before lodging a consentapplication.

Initially, stakeholders were seeking more information than typically required in the consenting process.


The policy team believed that unnecessarily slowed down what was already a time-consuming and potentially costly requirement for farmers.

Their aim was to make the process for applying for a resource consent as efficient as possible.

In his annual report, outgoing dairy chairman Stephen Crawford addressed lab-grown "meat" from plant proteins, saying chicken, fish, milk and even eggs were also being grown using similar technology, by well-funded start-ups.

To meet the challenge, New Zealand agriculture must market itself around sustainable environmental and animal welfare production.

Very few brands were commanding any significant premium in New Zealand, and even fewer brands were commanding a significant premium based on sustainable production.

"We increasingly need to consider the dairy industry's reliance on imported palm kernel, spray and chemical traceability, environmental footprint, and animal welfare. All these things form our marketable product and will dictate where in the market we sit," Mr Crawford said.


It would become increasingly essential for New Zealand agriculture to sell under a "sustainable" brand because it would simply not compete on price in the industrial market, he said.