Farmers must tell story

Nicky Hyslop's family has farmed at historic The Levels for more than 100 years. Photos: Chris Tobin
Nicky Hyslop's family has farmed at historic The Levels for more than 100 years. Photos: Chris Tobin
Putting strong factual information before government and other officials in Wellington is crucial in dealing with the enormous challenges facing the farming sector, South Canterbury farmer Nicky Hyslop believes.

South Canterbury farmer and farm leader Nicky Hyslop says the strong connections that once existed between town and country that ensured the rural community's views and opinions were reliably placed before politicians and others in highly influential positions is no longer occurring.

''We don't have that understanding of the farming system [in Wellington] and at times people who are making huge decisions are not aware of the farmers.

Nicky Hyslop relaxes with Franky.
Nicky Hyslop relaxes with Franky.
''It's incredibly important; we've got to get it right; all our farmer organisations and large farm co-ops have to make sure we share information so that there is a greater understanding of farming in Wellington.

''The way we've had conversations with the government has changed with this present government and we have to adapt accordingly.

''There has to be a lot more collaboration and conversations rather than the heavy-handed delivery which was used in the past, for example walking up the steps of Parliament.

''It's so important we get the information into Wellington.

''We all have a common goal, to improve our environmental footprint and that will only be made if we're working together.

''The first step is establishing what we agree on, then making it clear what we don't agree on.''

Mrs Hyslop has become a nationally recognised farming leader and was recently elected to Ravensdown's board as director of the Canterbury area, replacing Tony Howey, who retired.

She is already a board member of Beef + Lamb NZ, has been chair of Irrigation New Zealand and is a director of Aoraki Development, the economic development unit for Timaru District, as well as Opuha Water Ltd.

She said Irrigation NZ, Beef + Lamb and Federated Farmers had been ''very unified'' in their response to the Zero Carbon Bill but they had serious concerns over the short period of time for consultation over Environment Minister David Parker's controversial freshwater reform proposals.

Mr Parker's response to criticism has been that a six-week consultation was the normal period for parliamentary select committees.

''They are huge proposals with a lot of detail,'' Mrs Hyslop said.

''The consultation period isn't long enough and there's not enough opportunity for a genuine dialogue.''

Mrs Hyslop and husband Jonty run a 227ha sheep, beef and cropping farm, The Levels, near Timaru. They have three daughters.

The original farm dates back to 1851, when George Rhodes and his brothers William and Robert established the first pastoral run in South Canterbury.

''The Rhodes family sold it to the NZ Land Company and my family were managers.''

When the property was split up, the managers were given first right to purchase and Mrs Hyslop's forebears acquired the land on which the original homestead stood. They have been there for more than 100 years.

''My grandfather decided to pull the old homestead down; it got that a lot of work would have to be done on it and he thought it might be better to start again.''

Mrs Hyslop's parents farmed at Clayton Station, near Fairlie, and she grew up there before they took over The Levels.

''My husband and I purchased it off the family in 2003.''

-By Chris Tobin

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