Environment Southland's new catchment co-ordinator, Megan Bates, is loving her new patch.

Bates joined the regional council late last year, coming to the role from New Zealand Young Farmers, where she was Taranaki-Manawatu territory manager.

Her new role involved co-ordinating the Enviroschools programme for Southland and working with local farmer-led catchment and community groups.

Brought up on a Taranaki farm, Bates was a primary school teacher for seven years, in both New Zealand and the United Kingdom.


Then she decided she wanted to be more involved in the primary industries and she jumped at the opportunity to take on the Young Farmers role, which she held for four years.

When she started, some of the clubs were hardly functioning but it had now built up to a "thriving little hub".

There were three TeenAg clubs when she started and that number had grown to 18.

It was what she called her "dream job" and it led to her getting the role in Southland.

Bates was in partnership with her parents and two brothers on two dairy farms and had become involved with the running of the properties and the business side of the operation.

Moving into the environmental space was something that was "pretty cool" and also appealed as it had the teaching aspect.

The Enviroschools programme supported children and young people to plan, design and implement sustainability actions that were important to them and their communities.

Meanwhile, the growth in the number of farmer-led catchment groups in the region - predicted this year to be about 30 - showed farmers wanted to look after "their patch" and were taking proactive measures to do that.


Bates started at the end of October, and her goal for her first six weeks had been to get around and meet people and develop relationships.

This year she had "hit the ground running" and was ready to tackle some projects.

A big project this year was the Aparima Community Engagement (ACE) project which was encouraging farmers in the area to move towards improved land management practices to help build environmental and community resilience.

She was also organising some wintering workshops which would start in February.

Ms Bates was living in Winton and enjoying the Southland community as people had been very welcoming.

She had joined the Nightcaps Young Farmers Club - a strong club with 50-odd members - and was also involved with organising the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Otago-Southland regional final in Milton on February 16.

Bates still ran the accounts side of the family farming business and was in daily contact, getting home once a month.

Her two brothers were running a farm each and a family goal was to acquire another farm, moving more into a drystock area.

In a few years, she hoped to be running a farm, as well.

Her own practical farming experience was invaluable in her new role, as she could relate it all back, she said.