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in North Otago farms earlier this month, to see first-hand how different practices are working.
The first stop was Peter Mitchell’s 1400ha arable farm at Airedale.
Mr Mitchell chairs the North Otago Sustainable Land Management group (Noslam) that has been working towards improving water quality and biodiversity in local catchments.
He gave an overview of his farm and outlined how he operates close to Weston urban areas and alongside waterways.
Mr Mitchell uses variable rate irrigation to minimise water use and reduce the possibility of leaching and runoff. He told council staff how the costs and timeframes of implementing changes and technology affect his farming business.
North Otago Irrigation Company representatives spoke about the extent and dynamics of their scheme, which was one of the first to make farm environment plans compulsory for all subscribers.
The company’s environment manager Emily Anderson discussed initiatives to fence off critical source areas and protect and enhance wetlands.
The council staff also went to one of the pumping stations, on Lyndon and Jane Strang’s dairy farm at Clifton Falls.
The Strangs milk 450 cows in a self-contained system and have been heavily involved in catchment improvements.
After giving the council staff a talk on their uses of technology, the Strangs took them to see the milking area and the riparian plantings and a walkway being developed beside the Kakanui River near the farm.
Mr Strang was impressed the council appreciated the value of meeting farmers and understanding how they had to adjust their systems to comply with regulations.
He urged the staff to call him or Mr Mitchell if they have any farming-related queries.
They were invited to do likewise if there were any council matters causing concern to farmers.
Council strategy, policy and science general manager Gwyneth Elsum said her team spent a couple of days a year out of the office "as a way to broaden exposure and understanding of the variety of areas we work in".
As well as the North Otago visit, hosted by Noslam, other parts of the team visited farms in South Otago (the Pomahaka Catchment, Waiwera and Waipahi) and Taieri-Strath Taieri (Outram and Middlemarch).