Group's success celebrated

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peter (front centre), Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones (front far left) and New Zealand First MP Mark Patterson (second row second from left) celebrate with members of the Pourakino Catchment Group, after th
Acting Prime Minister Winston Peter (front centre), Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones (front far left) and New Zealand First MP Mark Patterson (second row second from left) celebrate with members of the Pourakino Catchment Group, after the success of the group's environmental efforts, in Fairfax last week. Photo: Nicole Sharp
Fairfax, in Southland, is a long way from the bright lights of Wellington and the Beehive.

For Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters, he made history last week, visiting the small town to meet members of the Pourakino Catchment Group.

The group was formed in 2014 by a group of passionate farmers and has led the way in improving water quality in the region.

Group members Ross McKenzie and Leon Black spoke about the group's journey so far, and showcased improvements being made in the catchment.

At the time it was established, Southland's proposed water and land plan was in its early stages, so the farmers in the group knew they needed to act, Mr McKenzie said.

''We thought that we'd be better served as a group.''

It was only two years later the group's efforts were recognised when they won the Southland Community Environment Councillors' Special Award in 2016.

One of the group's major achievements had been ensuring 85% of land holders in the Pourakino Catchment Group area had farm environment management plans.

Mr Black said there was support from industry partners for the group and the key success was everyone working together.

Addressing the group members, Mr Peters said he understood what pollution did to the farming industry.

Every smart person knew good environmental management was sound economics, he said.

While most farmers were responsible and doing their part, some were not, and they needed to be dealt with accordingly, he said.

He spoke about the Provincial Growth Fund, and encouraged those in Southland to make a proposal, as no applications had been received from the region.

''Saddle up and give us the applications.''

It was also the 25th anniversary of New Zealand First, the third-longest-standing party in New Zealand's history.

Accompanied by Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and New Zealand First MP Mark Patterson, Mr Peters visited various groups, organisations and businesses in the region.

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