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Are the economy and environment linked?

For most of the 20th century economics and ecology paid little attention to each other. However in the 21st century we are rediscovering what the ancient Greeks knew.

Oikos, the Greek word for home, is the root word for both ecology and economics, and the two disciplines are obviously inextricably linked, said the editor of New Scientist magazine late last year.

In the Waikato the strong link between ecology and economics is seen with the removal of forestry for dairy conversions in the upper reaches of the Waikato River and its consequences for flood protection in the lower Waikato. Another is global warming and the threat to coastal communities through sea level rise. Working towards a balance between farming and the environment is the task of the regional council’s Land Management Advisory Services team. The focus has been on water quality, but one cannot talk about water quality without referring to land activities like farming and horticulture.

We have a duty to fix what has been degraded. But, as New Scientist’s editor said, if we are to make progress, we must consider ecology and economics as two sides of the same coin, as we need both to make a home.

Major milestone reached on Waikato and Waipa rivers restoration

A major milestone has been reached on the journey to restore and protect the Waikato and Waipa rivers, with development of a broad policy mix framework for improving their health and wellbeing over the next 80 years.

The Healthy Rivers: Plan for Change/Wai Ora: He Rautaki Whakapaipai project’s Collaborative Stakeholder Group (CSG) has recently released a report describing the policies they are developing for the Waikato and Waipa river catchments, and the intent of the policies.

The CSG is due to recommend a proposed change to the Waikato Regional Plan in June this year. They will continue to flesh out the detail and consider and refine a number of areas before then.

View the full report Restoring and protecting our water/Te whakapaipai me te tiaki i ō tātou wai

What’s in the CSG’s report?

Restoring and protecting our water/Te whakapaipai me te tiaki i ō tātou wai includes a range of measures to reduce contaminants entering water, while collecting the necessary information to enable allocation of property-level limits for contaminant discharges in the future. It includes topics the CSG has settled on, as well as others they are still actively considering.

Some of the features of the proposed plan change the CSG has agreed on are outlined below.

Everyone to be part of the solution
Catchment wide targets for water quality will apply to both diffuse (non-point source) and point source discharges.

Restricting stock access to water
Dairy and beef cattle, horses, and farmed deer and pigs would be prevented from entering water bodies.

Limiting major land use change
Change of land use from indigenous vegetation or plantation production forestry to animal farming or cropping, or from drystock to dairying (milking platform) would be limited.

The net land area in the Waikato and Waipa river catchments used for commercial vegetable cropping would be capped at current hectares.

Property management plan options based on land use intensity and risk
Low intensity land use would not require a resource consent.

Any land use above low intensity would have three options available, based on the level of risk present.

  1. Producing a property management plan, and applying for a resource consent
  2. Producing a property management plan, and being part of a certified industry scheme
  3. Meeting risk factors, and not having to apply for a resource consent

Property management plans would have actions with dates attached. Landholders would need to show they are undertaking actions as agreed, and this would be audited.

Preparing for property level contaminant limits
Start collecting information from landholders and undertaking research in this plan change, so that property level limits for nitrogen can be set in the future.

The CSG is still considering and refining a number of areas, including:

  • enabling provisions for the development of land returned under Te Tiriti O Waitangi settlements and multiple Māori owned land
  • the outcomes expected from the proposed plan change after 10 to 20 years
  • prioritising catchments to implement rules requiring property management plans
  • timeline for implementation and when rules will come into force.

New on the menu for farmers

‘Menus’ of practices to help farmers improve nutrient management and reduce impacts on water quality have recently been upgraded.

A number of new mitigations now appear on the Menus of practices to improve water quality for dairy farms, drystock farms and cropping land.

A number of new categories of mitigation have been added, such as critical source areas (hotspots) and farm training. New mitigations have also been added to existing categories.  

In the online menu for drystock farms, three new videos made with the help of leading farmers show how they have tackled environmental challenges on their farms, highlighting:

  • Land and Environment Plans
  • planting spaced poplar poles on steep country
  • managing or retiring wet and boggy areas

View the menus

Principles of nitrogen management in forage cropping

Forage crops are important in many farming systems. They support animals through times of feed shortage, especially in the winter, and can be part of a pasture renewal programme.

Forage crops can be ‘leaky’ in terms of nitrogen leaching so AgReseach and DairyNZ have put together some pointers from their recent research to improve nitrogen management on forage crops. They include:

  • The biggest problem is soil N plus urinary N post grazing.
  • Sow crops early to use the available N before drainage starts.
  • Direct drill crops.
  • Control weed, pest and diseases to maximise crop grown.
  • Add correct fertiliser to meet the crop’s nutrient needs.
  • Establish plant cover as quickly as possible.
  • Low crop yields can leave more soil N; high crop yields will utilise soil N.
  • Graze winter crop with animals as close to spring as possible.
  • Apply nitrogen to spring summer crops in one application 4 to 5 weeks after sowing
  • No more than 200kg N/ha for kale and 150kg N/ha for swedes.
  • Winter active crops may be able to remove some of the summer/autumn urinary N.
  • Deep rooting crops such as chicory may be able to access post grazing urinary N from deeper in the soil.
  • Feeding winter forage off paddock will decrease N leaching risk.

New team members

Two new team members have recently joined the Land Management Advisory Services team.

Mark Gasquoine, Sustainable Agricultural Advisor
Mark Gasquoine, raised on a Matamata dairy farm, has worked for DairyNZ and Waikato Regional Council’s Farm services team. Mark will be working in the Waipa catchment. He replaces John Vosper who has moed to the Waihou-Piako catchment.

Hamish Smith, Sustainable Agricultural Advisor
Hamish Smith joins the team from a consultancy and planning background. He has worked  with intensive farming and large agricultural industries, both on farm and in processing. He is responsible for large farming events, and brings art and design skills to the job.

View past editions

View past editions of Healthy Farms Healthy Rivers News.

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