Green ribbon awards 03-Aug-2011

August 3, 2011 10:05 pm

We congratulate the NZ Landcare Trust, which received top honours in the ‘Caring for our Water’ category in the 2011 Green Ribbon Awards, announced at Parliament in June.

Rural Women New Zealand is one of seven trustees on the NZ Landcare Trust Board and many RWNZ members work at grass roots level alongside the Trust.

The Trust works with farmers, landowners and community groups to improve the sustainability of our landscapes and waterways.

Minister for the Environment, Nick Smith, said the Trust earned the award, “For their outstanding contribution to improving freshwater management across the country by engaging private land-owners in environmental protection work.”

Board chair Richard Thompson paid tribute to the Trust’s dedicated staff who focus on delivering the Trust’s vision of ‘sustainable land management through community engagement’. These staff include RWNZ member Barbara Stuart, who works as a Regional Co-ordinator in the top of the South Island. Mr Thompson also acknowledged the passion and hard work of the people in rural communities that the Trust works with.

Based in Cable Bay, RWNZ member Barbara Stuart is the Regional Co-ordinator responsible for Landcare projects in the Nelson/Marlborough area.  We spoke with her about her work, after the Green Ribbon Award win was announced.

She was full of praise for the support of Rural Women NZ members in her region, especially Rai Valley and Bainham branch members.

“The Rai Valley Rural Women are absolute Trojans in working on water quality and we’ve had great support from Bainham as well.”

Barbara says her role is to support private landowners in sustainable land management, working with communities where water quality problems have been shown to exist.

“Our job is to help our farmers to deal with that.  We like our farmers to be the leaders, so they commissioned their own scientific reports and together they all sat around and decided how to deal with it.  It’s a bottom up approach, working with land-owners and land care groups to help them to resolve their own industry issues.”

Barbara sees it as important for farmers to get the right advice, so they spend their dollar once and well.  In the Rai Valley, AgResearch, Dairy NZ and Fonterra specialists have provided technical advice to ensure the systems put in place will work in high rainfall areas on valley floors.

The three key messages being promoted by the Trust are that livestock needs to be kept out of water through fencing systems; there needs to be sufficient effluent storage capacity, with councils pushing for two to three months; and the effluent should be spread on the land at low rates when the soils can take it up, to capture the nutrients, thus saving the farmer money.

In July the Trust is launching new fact sheets to help maintain and improve water quality in Golden Bay.  The fact sheets are tailored to the local area and farmers help to write them. 

“We utilise our farmer skills to lead the projects, and I am really proud to say that when it comes to environmental issues, it is the farming women who ‘get it’,” says Barbara.  “They are so receptive.  They nurture their land as they nurture their families.  They are quick to pick up the concepts of tipping points of production.” 

“This is quite new for farming families.  It is something we haven’t had to confront before.  You could always buy more land.”

Barbara and her farmer husband Ian both come from pioneer families with good networks, which is important for her work.

“I am passionate about working with the rural community to help position them to farm in the third millennium.” 

She points to the pressure to produce food for a planet that is reaching peak population and the coming shortage of fossil fuels and fertilisers.

“There is a whole new way of thinking and in the past our farmers have been highly innovative and it is about tapping into that innovation in rural communities to make that next step forward.”

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