Farmers are always looking into the future. Whether it is the weather, legislation, consumer trends or any of the other influences on our business, we are continually trying to be proactive to do the best for our land, animals, people and to have a sustainable and profitable business.
The past few months have been a real challenge. Attempting to predict when the drought would break has meant a lot more scenario planning to work out what to do.
The options started with using on farm feed, then buying feed, to working out which class of stock need to be sold to reduce feed demand.
All this has created extra work both physically and mentally with the constant grind being draining. With farmers being so focused on getting themselves, their family, stock, and their business through the immediate future they could be forgiven for letting the long-term focus slip.
Federated Farmers hasn't and we have been working hard on many fronts, locally on the Rural Advisory Group and nationally on the drought response, then all the legislation both local (Tukituki and the coming TANK) and national (freshwater reforms, immigration etc) which hasn't stopped because of Covid or the drought.
We suggested several initiatives to the Government to help with the Covid recovery. Putting resources towards catchment groups and associated projects to improve water quality by riparian planting, creating wetlands, etc, was one of those. It was great to see other groups also suggest many of the same initiatives.
The Government agreed and committed funds to these projects, but too late for us, personally, as we had already completed the planning for creating a wetland for this purpose.
We have been working with Nathan Burkepile from NZ Landcare Trust to create our wetland from a bare swamp area that grew grass in the drought but was mostly unpalatable to our animals.
Our vision is for this area to be a native covered biodiversity sanctuary that will also help build bridges between pockets of bush around the area. Give it a few years and it will look and be an amazing area that we and many others can enjoy.
It has been an interesting project with Nathan's advice on how to form the wetland, the best plants to use and many other aspects have been invaluable. One thing we would never have thought of is driving a pine log into the wetland with a bit poking out for birds and other wildlife to sit on.
There are many other benefits of a wetland including stripping nitrogen, reducing peak water flow, therefore, reducing flooding risk downstream, reducing sediment and phosphorous. All these will benefit the water quality in our area.
Many farmers have been working on similar projects which benefit water quality for years. For example, all the riparian planting that has been done on farms.
In the future it will be easy to remember when we created our wetland; being the year of the big HB drought and Covid-19.
* Jim Galloway is president of Hawke's Bay Federated Farmers.