Rural-urban partnerships for change promoted

Scarlatti research manager Julie Moularde, of Wellington, will talk in Balclutha next week about...
Scarlatti research manager Julie Moularde, of Wellington, will talk in Balclutha next week about a project-testing the idea that if farmers see urban groups making equal change to improve the environment, they would be more motivated to make changes themselves. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Farmers want townies to play their part to improve the environment, an idea a $130,000 project is exploring and set for discussion in Balclutha next week.

Scarlatti research manager Julie Moularde, of Wellington, is set to speak about the Urban-Rural Partnerships for Equal Change project, as part of the Food, Farming & Freshwater Roadshow in the Te Pou Ō Mata-Au Clutha District War Memorial and Community Centre between noon and 4pm on Wednesday next week.

Scarlatti was a research, evaluation and analytics consultancy firm working mostly with the primary sector, Ms Moularde said.

The project explores how farmers might be tired of people with "no skin in the game" telling them to make difficult changes and sacrifices to improve the environment.

"They feel like they carry the burden."

Farmers felt urban people were telling them to make improvements, while not making any themselves to mitigate activities they did, which impacted negatively on the environment.

Many farmers felt they were portrayed negatively in the media, she said.

"They want urban people to do their fair share."

That greater change would happen, on farm and off, if urban and rural businesses collaborated and supported each other on the environmental journey is one of the ideas the project tested.

Another idea explored was farmers would be more motivated to make change themselves if they saw urban groups making equal changes to improve the environment.

As part of the project, a group of representatives from four farms and four urban businesses was formed to work together on tasks including co-designing 15 actions to improve sustainability.

The actions included planting trees, using more environmentally friendly suppliers, installing solar power and turning the motors off when a vehicle was stationary.

The rural businesses represented were a dairy farm in Manawatū, sheep and beef farms in Manawatū and Te Tai Tokerau and a forestry, sheep and beef farm in Te Tai Tokerau.

The urban businesses represented were an early childhood education centre in Wellington, a civil construction and forestry company in Wellington, an internet provider in Wellington and an event management company in Canterbury.

The urban group were "blown away" by the amount of work farmers were doing to mitigate environmental impacts, she said.

"They were really inspired and motivated by the rural people."

There was "real value" in rural and urban businesses coming together to learn from each other, she said.

The project, funded by Our Land & Water, was launched in October last year.

A final report on the project was on track for release at the end of next month.

Our Land & Water is funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

The research team would support the groups to deliver their change commitments, evaluate impact and share progress, she said.