Aiming for ‘next level’ environmental planning

Sam Spencer-Bower. PHOTO: DAVID HILL
Sam Spencer-Bower. PHOTO: DAVID HILL
A group of Waimakariri farmers hopes to lead farming into the next generation.

The Waimakariri Next Generation Farmers Trust has received Ministry for Primary Industries sustainable food and fibre futures funding for a three-year trial, which trustee Sam Spencer-Bower said would allow farm environment plans to be taken to the next level.

The project will investigate and trial environmental mitigation options through a "whole of farm" planning approach, he said.

"Our current farm environment plans (FEPs) are mostly about reducing nitrate leaching, but this will bring together all of the aspects that we consider on a day-to-day basis, like our staff well-being, animal welfare, biosecurity and profitability, along with future considerations such as greenhouse gases and biodiversity.

"We’re trying to front-foot the issues and be proactive whilst ensuring farm viability is at the centre of all that we do."

The project will be managed by land and water management consultants Water Strategies, which supported the trust in developing the project and getting funding.

Environment Canterbury (ECan), Waimakariri Irrigation Ltd, DairyNZ and Ballance Agri-Nutrients have signed up to support the project.

The trust also planned to work with the Waimakariri Zone Committee as it continued to develop local catchment plans, Mr Spencer-Bower said.

The trust was established nearly two years ago to bring interested parties together "to collectively explore a more workable outcome" for Plan Change 7 to ECan’s land and water regional plan.

About 120 local farming families were members.

"It’s our generation that needs to make environmental management part of our everyday lives," Mr Spencer-Bower said.

"It’s about ensuring farming in the Waimakariri has a future for the next generation."

As general manager of Claxby Farms and a fifth-generation North Canterbury farmer with two young children, Mr Spencer-Bower understood the importance of looking after the land.

"We just need to keep doing things better and making the farm more efficient, and the environmental side of it is all part of that.

"We are not just all about protecting profits, but we need to remain profitable so we can invest in the upgrades, system changes and new technologies we need to continue to improve our environmental footprint."

Claxby Farms has been farming on the banks of the Waimakariri River since 1852, converting from sheep, beef, deer and cropping to dairy farming nine years ago.

Mr Spencer-Bower’s great-great-grandfather, Marmaduke Dixon, was one of the first farmers in New Zealand to experiment with flood irrigation, taking water from intakes along the Waimakariri river and instigating the establishment of the Browns Rock intake, from where Waimakariri Irrigation Ltd extracts water today.

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