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A farmer-led initiative covering six Aparima catchments in Southland is looking at ways to improve land management practices to benefit the environment and local communities.
The Aparima Community Engagement (ACE) project, which represents six local catchment groups, has been under way since March this year, and a fortnight ago briefed Environment Minister David Parker on its aims during his visit to the area.
The type of issues being tackled includes identifying best practice around the likes of buffer zones for wintering, and the use of crops and fertiliser.
ACE’s next goal is to talk directly to all 630 farmers in the area to build more community support for the environmental challenges around the catchments, before identifying priority actions and funding avenues.
Pourakino Valley dairy farmer David Diprose said the environmental challenges being faced were complex, diverse and needed a crucial shift to different land management drivers.
"This is my space, I’m proud of it, and I want to make a difference.
"The community in my opinion are the ones who will make the change," he said.
Mr Parker said the ACE project was another example of Southland stepping up to tackle challenging water issues.
"The farmers involved were showing leadership and others would be inspired to follow."
He said regulation was only part of the way forward and farmer-led initiatives such as ACE were important.
Colac Bay dairy farmer Ewen Mathieson said the ACE initiative was giving those involved a good opportunity to engage with their community, including urban communities and Oraka-Aparima Runanga.
He said no two farms were alike, and many had complex dynamics.
His own farm had multiple physiographic zones, soil types, rolling to steep land, five different types of stock and 28km of waterways.
"The actions needed are all invariably different," he said.