Ashburton water zone manager at home with feet on dry land

When Ashburton zone lead Janine Holland describes what the zone team is working on, the answer can be summed up in four words: “big, hairy, audacious goals”.

“We’ve got some big, hairy audacious goals - getting six cumecs as a minimum flow into the Ashburton River is the biggie.  We’ve also got the largest number of farmers in the region needing consent under the Land-use Consent to Farm campaign,” Janine says.  But while they’re big goals to meet – they’re not impossible.

“We really want people on the road to consent early next year.  We're already hearing Good Management Practice is being implemented, Farm Environment Plans are getting done and people have applied for their nutrient budgets which is fantastic.”

Delivering community aspirations

It’s been six months since Janine joined the Ashburton Zone Team whose role is to work on the ground to deliver the community aspirations for environmental management.

The role is a far cry from her early career working as a journalist in Kaikōura during the early days of the marine tourism boom – a role that was challenging for someone who suffered from sea-sickness.

“The number of times I went out on boats and I'd get so sea sick that somebody would have to look after me as we came back in.  But I'd still be out there doing my best to get the story.  I’d get back to the office and try to recover while getting the story written and filed.”

After four years in Kaikōura and a stint with the Marlborough Express in Blenheim, Janine swapped the journalism lifestyle for one in communications.

“I found myself increasingly attracted to roles in communications that revolved around resource management- how we manage people and their environment.

“I’m drawn back to how we look after our natural environment, and how we enable access where it’s appropriate for those resources, while also ensuring we have sustainability.”

It wasn’t long before this passion led Janine back into the water space, this time in communications roles at Environment Canterbury and Irrigation NZ.

While working at Environment Canterbury as a water communications officer, Janine met her husband and eventually moved to Methven to be with him.

“When I left my hometown of Ashburton for university in Christchurch, I swore at the time I would never return to the district, purely because I wanted to get out into the world and experience bigger broader horizons.

“However, I returned 12 years ago and it's great. It's really nice being back living in the area.”

Connecting communities

One of the things that most excited Janine about returning to work for Environment Canterbury was the creation of zone teams based locally in the districts they serve.

“I’m really passionate about working with the community and think it’s been a hugely positive step.  Previously, the organisation was highly centralised based largely in Christchurch and Timaru and it was difficult making a connection with those rural communities we needed to work alongside. It feels easier to do that in the zone delivery model.”

And it seems the public agree too.

“I was talking to someone from a big organisation with lots of consents and they said, isn’t it amazing I’ll now ring up my local resource management officer and go have a coffee with them?  Who would’ve thought we'd get to that point?”

“It just reinforces the value of face to face communication and that's what people prefer at the end of the day.  A lot of farmers may not want to use email or get on the phone to ring customer services, they just want to talk to someone in person and say this is my issue, this is what I want to do, how can you help me?”

The Ashburton zone team has an open-door policy, and increasingly they’re finding farmers and consent holders approaching them for advice before making changes to their land or practices.

“It's really different from the day’s people would probably wait until the last minute and be forced to come and have a conversation with us.  Now we can steer them earlier and say if you want to do this then you’ll need to work under this plan or these rules.  And we can help them understand the requirements.”

“It’s much more positive to have these conversations early.  And it works because we’re based in the zone and are building relationships with the people that live here.”

Find out more about the Ashburton Zone Committee.