New project to help farmers shift towards sustainability

A project to help a thousand Southland farmers and growers to make the changes required to lift their environmental sustainability got a support from the Government today.

Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor visited Southland today to announce the Thriving Southland Change and Innovation Project will receive $6-9 million from the Government.

The programme was the first region-wide extension programme supported by the $229 million Sustainable Land Use package announced in this year's Budget.

"Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing agriculture and one of the biggest long-term challenges for New Zealand.

“This is an ambitious initiative with a really broad reach. It’s expected to cover at least 21 local catchment groups and spans the sheep and beef, deer, arable, horticulture and dairy sectors. They’re thinking big and I really commend their attitude and the way they’re embracing change.”

He said New Zealand's farmers and growers were committed to making genuine change.

"Many are already doing it, but they need practical information about what steps to take, clear direction about what to aim for and support to take action.”

He said part of this is extension was to pull together clusters of farmers and growers to share information, insights and advice "with like-minded people who understand local issues”.

Thriving Southland chairman Ewen Mathieson said the project would support vibrant communities by building on the good work of the combined catchment groups.

“Southland communities have proven to be innovative, and as we begin to understand what our direction needs to be, we will see our farming communities implement change in a positive way,” he said.

The announcement came months after Southland farmers raised concerns about the Government's plan to clean up New Zealand's water.

They were worried because they would need resource consents and spent much more money to carry out the same work they are doing now, under the Government's proposed new rules.

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