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Funding success will boost dairy environmental actions

Land & Water

A proven method of working with farmers to improve their environmental performance will be expanded and two new projects will start thanks to funding partnerships between dairy farmers and the Waikato River Authority.

Around $1.3 million of funding from the Waikato River Authority is being matched with $1.3 million from dairy farmers, funded through the levy they pay their industry body DairyNZ, to get the three environmental projects underway. 

The largest project will be the expansion of DairyNZ’s Sustainable Milk Plan initiative to cover 850 farmers dairying near and beside the Waipa River.

This follows the success of a $2.3 million project in the upper Waikato River area where 590 dairy farmers have now completed Sustainable Milk Plans. The milk plans detail a range of more than 4,700 agreed actions covering effluent, nutrient and water use management that the Upper Waikato farmers are now funding and implementing. 

DairyNZ project manager for the Upper Waikato initiative, Adrian Brocksopp, says the three year project has shown how to work with farmers and bring about key environmental actions that make a difference to local water quality. The Upper Waikato pilot was funded by DairyNZ and the Ministry for Primary Industries through the Transforming the Dairy Value Chain Primary Growth Partnership programme, and the Waikato River Authority.

“What we’ve created is a model for supporting farmers to make changes through one-on-one advice and individualised plans. We have had customised conversations with them about their farm. This kind of approach really makes a difference as it’s about setting out a plan that the farmer can see will work for their farm and for the local environment. We hope to eventually roll these kinds of plans out across the country with dairy farmers.” 

The Sustainable Milk Plan approach has already been approved as a way for farmers to comply with a new Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan requirement for every dairy farm to have a ‘farm environment plan’, he says.

“We’ve adapted the Sustainable Milk Plan to work in Canterbury now as we had to amend the template to incorporate farming systems with irrigation. We are also doing these plans in the Manawatu-Whanganui region. So we’re convinced this model can succeed in a range of farming situations.” 

DairyNZ environmental policy manager Dr Mike Scarsbrook says another new DairyNZ project won $230,000 of funding from the Waikato River Authority. This will focus on working with the Waikato Regional Council to link projects to showcase water quality restoration. 

“We want to work with the council to show how you can build a strategy for water restoration by joining up projects to make them work together better,” he says. 

The third key project is a wetland showcase being carried out in partnership with the Baldwin Family Trust, infrastructure consultancy Opus and Hills Laboratories. It won $75,000 in funding. 

“We are going to work on creating a large and challenging wetland on a farm. We want to showcase to other farmers and the public the best way to go about restoring wetlands. 

“We want this real life example to be managed so farmers and the public can follow its creation, the ups and the downs of the work, and learn from the project. Our ideal result would be that farmers see for themselves how easy it can be to restore a wetland and become inspired to undertake wetland restoration on their own farms,” says Mike. 

Water quality scientists will monitor and track the impact on local waterways of all the projects as one of the conditions of funding.

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