NZARM Conference 2023

Thriving Wai, Thriving Whenua and Thriving Communities

The 2023 NZARM Conference, titled 'Thriving Wai, Thriving Whenua and Thriving Communities,' held in Canterbury, was a resounding success, embodying NZARM's commitment to environmental stewardship and community well-being. Across three dynamic days, attendees enjoyed diverse presentations showcasing stunning landscapes, tackling challenges, and sharing success stories.

Day One focused on 'Leading Change, Resilience and Adaptation,' featuring insightful discussions from key partners like Fonterra and the Department of Conservation, emphasising technological advancements and people-centric strategies for environmental management. Day Two delved into Farm Planning with a spotlight on freshwater issues, offering valuable insights from regions already implementing Freshwater Farm Plans. The event also featured engaging poster presentations and coveted Masterclass sessions, providing intimate learning experiences with seasoned experts. Attendees had the privilege of witnessing the culmination of the Living Water partnership and its myriad projects, with field trip options exploring freshwater and Farm Planning initiatives on Day 3.

Mananui Ramsden - A rural Maori community and their struggle to obtain safe, sustainable drinking water.

Mananui Ramsden, Chairperson of Te Ranaka o Koukourarata and CEO/Founder of Te Whare Rakau, presented the challenges faced by a rural community in New Zealand and the need for water infrastructure and equity.

Mananui offered some key insights about the challenges faced on the Banks Peninsula in Canterbury:

  • The lack of water infrastructure in rural communities, such as on the Banks Peninsula, has led to water pollution and health issues for residents. This highlights the importance of investing in and improving water infrastructure to ensure the well-being of these communities.
  • The impact of colonisation on indigenous communities in New Zealand, including the loss of control over resources and the displacement of people, has had long-lasting effects. Acknowledging and addressing these historical injustices to work towards a more equitable future is crucial.
  • Building relationships and partnerships with indigenous communities is essential for effective decision-making and solving complex environmental challenges. More sustainable and equitable solutions can be developed by including diverse perspectives and indigenous knowledge systems.
  • Shifting land use practices and developing localised solutions can address environmental and economic challenges in rural communities. Prioritising the well-being of local ecosystems and communities can create a more sustainable and resilient future.
  • Honouring treaty obligations and addressing equity issues in water infrastructure is vital for achieving justice and fairness. Advocate for the rights of indigenous communities and ensure that their voices are heard in decision-making processes.

Trish Kirkland Smith and Mark Fitzpatrick - Dairy & Freshwater Thriving Together: Is it Possible?

Trish Kirkland-Smith (Head of Environmental Partnerships at Fonterra) and Mark Fitzpatrick (Former Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships at the Department of Conservation).

Trish and Mark highlighted the discomfort and challenges faced by the ten-year Living Water partnership between the Department of Conservation and Fonterra.

Trish highlighted that despite the criticism and scepticism, the partnership has achieved significant progress in promoting regenerative farming and healthy ecosystems. The presentation summarised that future solutions for dairy and freshwater management require a holistic approach that considers the interconnectedness of nature, climate, and people. This approach involves reframing land stewardship, reimagining farms and landscapes through a nature and people lens, and embracing social scientists and community engagement.

With the partnership coming to a close, it can serve as a valuable case study for the challenges and successes of collaborative efforts in the dairy and freshwater space. The lessons can inform future initiatives and partnerships focused on addressing agriculture and water management's complex ecological and societal issues.

Alan Renwick - Farm System Change in New Zealand: A Value-Chain Perspective

Alan Renwick (Professor of Agriculture Economics at Lincoln University) presented on agricultural economics and discussed the drivers and challenges of farm system change in New Zealand. Alan emphasised the need to consider market demand, competitive advantages, and value chain perspectives when evaluating potential alternative land uses and enterprises.

Key points included:

  • The tension between environmental goals and customer demands,
  • The importance of resilience and risk management, and
  • The challenges of transitioning from commodity-based systems while capturing value for growers.

Alan explored examples like alternative proteins and high-value crops, highlighting the need to assess New Zealand's competitive edge and ability to return profits to farmers.

Richard Kyte - Inspiring Community Action

Richard Kyte presented on how to inspire community action through his experience with Thriving Southland.

Thriving Southland is a cross-sectoral group of farmers that aims to bring together communities and support projects at the ground level. By involving farmers in decision-making and providing support, they have been able to drive positive change and address environmental challenges effectively.

Richards emphasised the key insights he has found have helped to promote community action, such as,

  • Engaging Farmers: Engaging with farmers at the local level is crucial for successful environmental initiatives.
  • Community Ownership: Allowing farmers and communities to take ownership of projects is vital for their success.
  • Accessible Science: Making scientific information accessible and relevant to farmers is essential for effective decision-making.
  • Building Relationships: Building strong relationships between different stakeholders, including farmers, government agencies, and environmental organizations, is key to driving positive change.
  • Financial Resilience: Understanding the financial implications and balancing environmental goals and economic viability is crucial for sustainable farming practices' long-term success and adoption.

Te Uru Rakau - Empowering informed decision-making for the prosperity of people and the planet

Heather Miller presented a poster on behalf of the team at Te Uru Rakau.

The New Zealand Forest Service has set up the Forest Advisory Service to support landowners and the forestry sector with sustainable land management and regulation information. The service offers regulation information and support, particularly regarding national environmental standards for plantation and commercial forestry, the emissions trading scheme, and the Forestry Act.

The advisory service's goal is to encourage the use of wood in New Zealand and reduce reliance on exporting. It also aims to promote a circular economy by replacing plastic products with wood-based alternatives.

Auckland Council and Fonterra - Partnership for Wetland Restoration: A Freshwater Management Case Study

Peter Nowell presented a poster for the Fonterra and Auckland Council team.

Peter acknowledged the partnership between Auckland Council and Fonterra, demonstrating the importance of collaboration in wetland restoration efforts. He shared that using a freshwater management tool allows for data-driven decision-making in prioritising and targeting wetland restoration projects.

Using freshwater management tools, Peter noted that wetlands can be prioritised based on size, wetland area to catchment ratio, and total nitrogen interception to maximise the impact of restoration efforts.

WSP - Agroforestry - Future Proofing a Central Otago Farm

Amiee Dawson presented a poster on behalf of the WSP Sustainable Land team.

The plan aims to integrate 89 hectares of the partially irrigated farm into forestry to future-proof it. The poster showcases images of the agroforestry plan, providing a visual representation of the project.

Cam Henderson - Resilience through diversity - Exploring options for alternative land use in Waimakariri

Cam Henderson runs a 400-hectare dairy, dairy support and arable farming business near Oxford, North Canterbury and is also a trustee of the Waimakariri Landcare Trust.

Cam's presentation demonstrated how farmers in the Waimakariri District are exploring alternative land use options to address challenges related to sustainable agriculture and nitrate management. The Waimakariri Landcare Trust conducted a project to identify viable land uses, considering economic and environmental factors. Key insights include the need for external support, potential risks in changing land use, and the role of corporates in taking risks with new land use options.

Adam Purcell - Strategic ecological restoration: getting the best bang for your buck

Adam Purcell, a restoration ecologist for Titoki Landcare, discussed the why, what, and how of ecological restoration and biodiversity management amid a biodiversity crisis in New Zealand. He highlighted the need to identify key sites, protect and maintain them, improve degraded sites, and reconnect ecosystems. He also emphasised the importance of understanding restoration principles, different approaches to restoration, and effective vegetation and flora management techniques.

Mark Neal - Resilience and adaptation of farm systems in a changing climate

Mark Neal (Strategic Lead with DairyNZ) discussed the need for resilience and adaptation in farm systems in the face of climate change. He covered the challenges faced by pastoral agriculture, such as changing temperatures, rainfall, and extreme weather events. He also mentioned the decline in pasture productivity and its potential impact on dairy farming. Mark highlighted the importance of mitigation and adaptation strategies, including genetic improvements, management changes, and the integration of alternative species.

Mark concluded by mentioning that collaboration and engagement are essential to successful adaptation. By working together and sharing knowledge and experiences, we can navigate the challenges of climate change and implement sustainable practices that ensure a prosperous future for pastoral farming and rural communities.

Judith Earl-Goulet - Part 1 Insights from Implementing Canterbury Farm Planning

Judith Earl-Goulet (General Manager - Regulatory Services, Environment Canterbury) discussed the implementation of farm environment plans in Canterbury and the challenges faced by the council in engaging with farmers.

Judith touched on the insights below as being crucial to helping achieve the desired outcomes.

  • Implementing farm environment plans required a shift in mindset from simply providing information to facilitating behaviour change among farmers.
  • Understanding the audience was crucial in designing effective communication strategies.
  • One size does not fit all, and approaches may need to be tailored to specific catchments and farming systems.
  • Building capacity within the council is essential for effective implementation.
  • Taking a campaign approach, including multifaceted communication strategies, face-to-face interactions, and ongoing support, can help motivate and guide farmers through the change process.
  • Letting go of control and allowing other organisations and stakeholders to take the lead can be beneficial in fostering trust and engagement with farmers.
  • Monitoring progress, evaluating effectiveness, and adapting strategies are crucial for continuous improvement.

Panel Discussion - Part 2 Insights from Implementing Canterbury Farm Planning

Meredith Macdonald (Environment Canterbury) facilitated a panel with industry experts, including Dave Lucock (The Agri-Business Group), Julia Crossman (Opuha Water), Emma Brand (Synlait) and Carey Barnett (Ellesmere Sustainable Trust).

The panel discussed the implementation of freshwater farm plans in Canterbury, highlighting the importance of farmer ownership, collaboration, and clear communication. The panel also emphasised the need for catchment-based approaches and the potential benefits of non-regulatory solutions.

Key learnings included,

  • Collaboration between regional councils, industry groups, and catchment groups is essential for effective implementation. Working together and involving all relevant stakeholders leads to better outcomes and ensures practicality and farmer buy-in.
  • Tailoring farm plans to the specific needs and context of the catchment is crucial. A one-size-fits-all approach may not be effective, and catchment-based solutions can address different areas' unique challenges and vulnerabilities.
  • Non-regulatory solutions, such as voluntary programs and incentives, can complement regulatory frameworks and drive positive changes in farming practices.
  • Clear communication within the farming community and between regional councils and farmers is essential. Providing context, explaining the reasons behind regulations, and maintaining open channels of communication help build trust and understanding.

Cyclone Gabrielle Sediment Survey

Enrique Perez Garcin presented on behalf of LandWise, Massey University, AgReasearch, Plant and Food, Gisborne District Council and Vegetables Research and Innovation on the sediment survey conducted after Cyclone Gabrielle in February 2023.

The objective was to collect baseline data on the cyclone's effects on high-value crops. Mixing shallow sediments with underlying soil proved to be an effective method for improving nutrient status.

Funding is currently being sought for a long-term study to understand the effectiveness of different management strategies in the next 3-5 years and to help determine the time required to restore healthy soil after cyclone deposits.

Environment Canterbury - Soil Conservation for Thriving Wai and Resilient Communities

Sam Thompson (Environment Canterbury) presented a poster on the Soil Conservation Project in North Canterbury. The project started in 2019 and has been successful in mobilising and effectively delivering results. Sam explained that farmers have been incredibly generous with their time and knowledge, showing a willingness to work together for the project's success.

The project has now expanded to the Waimakariri District, opening new opportunities and receiving positive feedback.

Re-imagining the Lowland Waterway Network in Ararira (LII) Catchment

Sarah Yarrow (Fonterra) presented a poster on behalf of Living Water, Aqualinc Research, EOS Ecology, Learning for Sustainability and the Department of Conservation.

Sarah discussed restoring the lowland waterway network in the Ararira Catchment in New Zealand. She highlighted the importance of addressing the drainage network and the role of partnerships in implementing a catchment management plan. The economic value of restoring the lowland waterway network is demonstrated through cost-benefit analysis, showing that the benefits outweighed the investment required.

Sarah acknowledged that the success of this project in Canterbury can serve as a model for other councils in New Zealand, showcasing the importance of partnership and co-design in achieving restoration goals.

A resilient future for Tairawhiti after Hale and Gabrielle

Gisborne District Council's Kerry Hudson and Enrique Perez Garcin presented a masterclass showcasing some of the wood waste and material buildup in rivers in Tairawhiti after natural disasters.

The masterclass explored the challenges faced and potential solutions, including key insights such as:

  • Reversion to indigenous vegetation and alternative species planting can help mitigate wood waste issues in rivers. This approach provides better control over erosion and reduces the risk of slash and material buildup.
  • Selective harvesting and thinning methods can minimise slope impact and reduce erosion risk.
  • Planting poplar and willow in gullies can effectively measure erosion control.
  • The potential income from alternative species like manuka and carbon credits can significantly contribute to the economic viability of land use changes.
  • Legumes and specific grass species can be used in erosion-prone areas to improve soil stability and reduce runoff.
  • The impact of forestry on roads and infrastructure should be carefully considered in land use planning.
  • Policy and incentive changes have influenced land use decisions in the past. It is important to critically evaluate the effectiveness of these policies and incentives to ensure they align with the long-term goals of sustainable land management and environmental protection.

Landscape DNA - The influence of the landscape on environmental management

During their masterclass session, Dr. Clint Rissmann and Poppy Hardie explored landscape settings science to examine high-resolution maps in action.

Poppy and Clint highlighted the need for tools that communities can own and be a part of developing. The masterclass provided key insights regarding the importance of understanding the landscape, some of these included:

  • Understanding the landscape is crucial in environmental management, and tools like Landscape DNA provide valuable contextual information for decision-making.
  • Transitioning from broad-scale information to finer-scale resolution is essential for effective decision-making at the paddock level.
  • Landscape has a significant influence on spatial variability and water quality contamination. While land use is the primary driver of poor water quality outcomes, landscape characteristics control the severity and type of contamination.
  • Collaboration between farmers, scientists, and communities is crucial for successful environmental management.
  • High-resolution data sets, such as radiometric surveys, can provide valuable information for understanding landscape characteristics and optimizing resource management.
  • The existing system should shift from control to empowerment, allowing communities to take ownership of environmental management. Building trust and providing tools that farmers can use and trust will lead to better outcomes for both the environment and the farming community.

OverseerFM - Delivering meaningful catchment improvements

In their masterclass session, Alastair Taylor and Michaela Lowry demonstrated how the Farm Groups tool in OverseerFM can help identify specific areas within a farm that contribute to nutrient losses, enabling targeted changes and reducing the overall environmental impact.

Alastair mentioned that the coordination, support, and education provided by catchment group facilitators and farmer-to-farmer interactions play a significant role in promoting the use of OverseerFM and driving environmental improvements in farming practices.

    GNS Science - Delivering meaningful catchment improvements

    Brenda Rosser discussed mapping landslides in New Zealand. Landslides are a significant natural hazard in New Zealand, causing extensive damage and economic impact; therefore, mapping their locations and characteristics is crucial for mitigation and planning efforts.

    In her presentation, Brenda covered data sources, identifying landslides using imagery, mapping landslides using GIS, and landslide susceptibility models.

    Eagle Technology - Making open geospatial data work for you

    The team at Eagle Technology presented in their masterclass the use of open geospatial data and GIS technology to create maps, analyze data, and engage with stakeholders.

    The masterclass provided participants with key insights, including,

    • Open geospatial data and GIS technology are powerful tools for creating maps and analyzing data.
    • Open data portals are a valuable resource for accessing and downloading geospatial data.
    • Open geospatial data goes beyond traditional 2D maps and now includes 3D maps that can bring ordinary data to life.
    • Combining open data with privately collected data allows for more comprehensive analysis and reporting.

    Christchurch Envirohub Trust - Effective engagement to grow the public's knowledge of our urban waterways

    Jenny Bond and Jenny Walters presented their masterclass on effectively engaging with the public and growing one's knowledge.

    The masterclass provided key tips on how to engage such as effectively,

    • Effective engagement requires appropriate body language and facial expressions to make conversations more approachable and friendly.
    • Choosing the right opening line and hook can significantly grab the public's attention and initiate conversations about environmental topics.
    • Simplifying complex terminology and using relatable examples helps to communicate effectively with the public and prevent them from feeling ignorant or overwhelmed.
    • Collaboration and support from various stakeholders, including local councils and community organisations, are crucial for successful engagement initiatives.

    Unlocking success for farmers and addressing their challenges

    Linda Clark (Rural Support Trust) and Amelia Wood (Element Environmental) presented the importance of planning and building relationships with farmers and addressing their specific challenges. The masterclass also introduced the concept of a stress bucket and the role of the Rural Support Trust in providing support for farmers.

    The masterclass provided key insights into skills required when building relationships, which include:

    • Building relationships with farmers begins with careful planning and understanding of their needs. This includes choosing the right visit time, conducting prior research, and involving key stakeholders in discussions. By demonstrating empathy and being prepared, consultants can establish trust and enhance the effectiveness of their interactions.
    • Observing the surroundings and body language when approaching a farm can provide valuable insights into the farmer's well-being and the overall state of the farm.
    • Starting on the right foot with farmers and demonstrating empathy and understanding of their unique circumstances, such as financial constraints and family dynamics, can foster a positive and long-lasting relationship.

    Conference Close

    Simon Stokes, a long-time NZARM member, closed the 2023 NZARM Conference. In his closing speech, Simon discussed the need for a free mind and flowing spirit in order to navigate the complex and intense challenges faced in the New Zealand primary sector. He emphasised the importance of understanding the "why" and exploring the "how" in order to bring about meaningful change.