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Pablo Gregorini is the professor of livestock production at Lincoln University, and head of the university’s Centre of Excellence for Designing Future Productive Landscapes.
He talks a lot about multiscapes — relationships with and to the land, the interconnectedness of natural resources, and the downstream effects on ecosystems.
He was one of 16 Lincoln academics, scientists, and students and industry experts, who visited Criffel Station to work with Alpine Lakes Research and Education Centre (ALREC) to ‘‘catalyse change’’ and connect the Wanaka community to Mt Grand.
‘‘There is a lot of change going on around the perceptions of how we used to farm, how we farm now and how society wants us to farm in the future.
‘‘We are trying to get out of that myopic way of seeing farming, and to see the landscape as multiscapes of grazing: thoughtscapes, socialscapes, landscapes (including air, water and soilscapes), foodscapes, healthscapes and wildscapes.’’
Originally from Argentina, Prof Gregorini spent many years working in the United States before relocating to New Zealand in 2009 for a job with DairyNZ.
His family are all academics and he said he reached a point where he needed to ‘‘stick with my family roots’’ and accepted the position at Lincoln University.
The university owns Mt Grand, a 2127ha property immediately east of Lake Hawea producing fine merino wool and sheep meat.
‘‘Our view is for our station is to be a catalyst of change, a demonstration station, where we can all participate in supporting community and science-based change, and take risks farmers are not willing to take.’’
High-country farmers are facing many stress factors from climate change, introduced pests, steep and inaccessible terrain to erosion prone soils and excessive nutrients entering waterways.
There is increasing public pressure on farmers to manage their farms better so that negative environmental impacts are minimised, animal welfare is improved and indigenous biodiversity is retained and increased.
Under Lincoln’s productive landscapes programme, Mt Grand station researchers and scientists are introducing practices to regenerate the landscape to create an environment that benefits livestock and wildlife which live there, and at the same time incorporate Matauraka Maori to support and sustain te taiao. Hirini Matunga is Lincoln University’s professor of Maori and Indigenous Development, researching and teaching in the area of Maori and indigenous planning.
He said toi tu te whenua means upholding the mana of the land and bringing to Mt Grand station is giving it a context for where it sits historically, in the broader ecosystem and in the broader catchment.
‘‘We call it culturally mapping.
‘‘We are looking at human associations through time, looking at important maori cultural sites, why Lake Hawea is important and we want that to sit alongside the other science and community based knowledge systems, hopefully that will be factored into the decision making for the farm.’’
Ko au te whenua, te whenua ko au — I am the land, the land is me.
‘‘There are trails all through here, many of us know it was an important passage from the east coast to the west coast to collect pounamu (greenstone).
‘‘There were some really important mahinga kai (food gathering areas) such as Lake Hawea, in fact part way up at the Neck is a major mahinga kai.
‘‘There are cultural associations with the lake and if you take that back to the farm it would be good to know that the on-farm activity is not having a detrimental affect on the mahinga kai that adjoins it.
Criffel Station owner and WAI Wanaka chairwoman Mandy Bell hosted the workshop.
‘‘Having a vision is a biggie.
‘‘WAI Wanaka has a whole of the basin, whole of community approach, which we call onehealth but which Pablo and Lincoln refer to as multiscapes.
‘‘I can’t actually remember when I first met Pablo but I remember going to have a half hour chat with him in Christchurch and we were still talking two hours later.
‘‘We have the same philosophies.
WAI stands for Water Action Initiative and is an Upper Clutha community group set up to safeguard and improve the quality of the water in and around the broader Upper Clutha catchment.
Ms Bell said there will be huge value from WAI working with Lincoln and Lincoln working closely with the community.
‘‘Their science can be utilised, it will be relevant and it will inform us on what are the best ways to go.
‘‘If there is a change in practise, has it actually had a positive impact?
‘‘Could we have done it better, can we fine tune it?’’
‘‘A project really flies when the reference groups and governance groups have experts and scientists and the community are able to make those changes,’’ Ms Bell said.
Prof Gregorini said the centre was working on future multiscapes and livestock research but it needed the help of the rest of the society and the community.
‘‘We want farmers to join us, to put questions to ask, to call us, we want to know more what you are doing.
‘‘We form and inform our young students but the information we provide them depends on the research that we do and the research that we interact with.
‘‘We need farmers and the community to talk with us, we need supporters and funders to help us cope with this challenge.
‘‘Some people think of a challenge like a storm, we see it as an opportunity.’’
The First International Workshop on “Grazing in future multi-scapes: From thoughtscapes to landscapes, creating health from the ground up” is scheduled to take place at Lincoln University, Christchurch, in July next year.