Eye opening field trip for Ashburton Zone Committee

The Mt Somers farming community has provided an “eye-opening” look at the work farmers are doing to improve their environment.

On Tuesday, members of the Ashburton Water Zone Committee, Ashburton District Council and Environment Canterbury toured three farms in the area and met with landowners and leasees to see the work they had been doing and hear their views on how they are meeting good management practices.

The group visited a deer and beef farm owned by Michael and Nicky Salvesen to discuss farm management and compliance as well as discuss the impact and practicality of rules on farmers. The farm is located in the Upper Hinds/Hekeao Plains area and under the Hinds Plan Change is required to reduce the impacts of farming activities on water quality.

They then visited two wetland projects by neighbours David and Rosemary Morrow and Charles and Elspeth Jaine which have received funding from the zone committee’s Immediate Steps Fund.

Environment Canterbury councillor David Caygill said it was great to see farmers, land-owners and leasees working to protect and preserve the environment.

“I was interested in the contrast in approaches. Some "fence now, plant later", some "do it once, do it right". But all are making a positive difference.”

The experience has led him to think more about the Resource Management Act.

“No matter how long you work in a legal framework you always learn from talking to people on the ground about the actual situation they are dealing with,” Cr Caygill said.

Ashburton Water Zone Committee chair Bill Thomas said the field trip was an “eye-opener” for the committee.

“It is fantastic to see what the three families have done with riparian planting and the really good thing is that all three farms have already been working on their projects for a significant length of time as part of their farm management.

“While it’s very satisfying to see first-hand where the zone committee’s Immediate Steps funding has been used successfully, it has to be remembered that the land owners are themselves the real contributors,” Bill said.

Ashburton District councillor Stuart Wilson agreed.

“It is quite remarkable seeing what the funds provided by the Zone Committee has helped achieve.

“The four landowners we visited are farming in an area that has an effect on water quality that extends much further down country than just the immediate location of their properties. [Visiting these sites] reinforced to us that most farmers take pride in how they regard the stewardship of the land they occupy.”

The field trip also offered the opportunity to newly-elected district and regional councillors to see the work happening to improve the environment.

Environment Canterbury councillor Cynthia Roberts, who sits on the Hurunui Waiau Zone Committee said it was great opportunity to see how other water zones were working.

“There’s nothing better than getting out of the office and onto the farm to improve our understanding of the challenges around implementing environmental rules and good management practices.”'

Bill Thomas said the zone committee is very keen to see more farmers get involved in environmental projects and encouraged those interested to apply for Immediate Steps funding.