Hub to replace demonstration farm

A planned ''one-stop shop'' dairy hub in Southland will give industry organisations the chance to collaborate and utilise one central space, Southland Demonstration Farm business manager Stacy McNaught says.

The Southern Dairy Development Trust owns the Southland Demonstration Farm Trust which operates the demonstration farm in Wallacetown, and has proposed the new $26.5 million dairy hub to replace the demonstration farm, the lease of which runs out in 2016.

The hub would have three aspects to it: a functioning commercial 300-380 hectare farm milking 850-950 dairy cows; a business, education, and extension hub which would have offices and spaces for other organisations to base themselves; and research facilities.

''Industry organisations will be able to utilise the hub - they could choose to base themselves there.

''Schools and the community should be able to embrace this facility - it will be a one-stop shop.''

Mr McNaught said the profile of the demonstration farm was always increasing but it could not handle large groups of people touring through it, so the new hub would include space for the education purposes, as well as being able to cater for large school and university groups.

Research was also an important part of the facility, as research from North Island centres and areas outside of Southland could be hard to apply to the region due to its unique landscape and countryside.

''Demand for local research is greatly increasing. To me, it's a natural progression to have a dedicated research facility. This isn't just a pet project - it's necessary for the industry.''

While the trust was talking with private funders, Southland farmers would also be asked to contribute to the funding of the facility at varying levels, he said, with most farmers being asked to ''effectively contribute a cow or the equivalent of that in cash''.

Having Southland farmers contributing to the cost of the project showed ownership and meant people could take the project seriously.

''In order to be taken seriously, we have to show that we as a community want it. If you are just given something, it might not be supported. Farmers are already recognising that they will support this,'' Mr McNaught said.

Southland Federated Farmers president Russell Macpherson said the project benefited everyone.

''It will be a research farm based on a commercial reality, which is good for not only dairy farmers, but also the community because as farmers become more efficient, they use their resources in a better way, so there's less impact on the environment. They make more money and they spend more money.''

Mr MacPherson said it would be up to each individual farmer to decide whether or not to give money towards the project, as well as paying their levies to Dairy NZ and the trust.

''Just like anything, some farmers will be happy to pay and some farmers won't be. It's really important that it's a robust enterprise, and farmers will be asking that question.''

- by Leeana Tamati