Ngāi Tahu Farming and Lincoln University have announced a partnership to support best practice farming on the iwi dairy farms being developed in Eyrewell, North Canterbury.
On Friday 6 December, the Mana Whenua Working Party and other invited guests, including the Minister for the Environment, Hon Amy Adams, attended an on-farm launch and demonstration of the lysimeters that will play a lead role in monitoring nitrate leaching. Once all the lysimeters are in place, they will represent the most sophisticated, automatic monitoring facility that has been constructed on a commercial dairy farm in New Zealand.
According to Clare Williams, chair of Ngāi Tūāhuriri, cultural and environmental aspirations have been top priorities for the Mana Whenua Working Party, which is made up of members of the Ngāi Tahu hapū that hold mana whenua (authority) over the Hurunui and Waimakariri River catchments associated with Ngāi Tahu Farming’s Eyrewell and Balmoral developments.
Our main concern is nutrient levels in waterways. We don’t want our farms to adversely affect our waterways because that’s where we get our kai from,” she says.
Ngāi Tahu Farming have been working extremely hard to set best practice standards so they can be dairying leaders and this new, two-part partnership will provide a three-year programme of environmental, biodiversity and water resource monitoring. The programme will consist of two objectives – environmental monitoring of nitrate leaching and valuing biodiversity through restoration planting.
The environmental monitoring of the Eyrewell farms will involve direct measurements of nitrate leaching losses via the lysimeter technology. Lysimeters (large tubes containing undisturbed columns of soil), will be used to measure the nitrate leaching loss in drainage water. They will be set up initially on farm one, which is to act as a monitor farm and an on-farm laboratory suitable for visitors to inspect.
The biodiversity programme aims to protect and expand vegetation remnants within the farms and enhance future ecological restoration. More than 150 hectares are already set aside for native plants and animals and the project will provide a template for the establishment, monitoring and enhancement of future native habitats within the Ngāi Tahu Farming area.
“Our farming team is embracing our tribal desire to set the bar high and be leaders in sustainable dairying. Our Ngāi Tahu values and our sense of responsibility for the environment means that constant improvement is what our people expect,” says Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu deputy kaiwhakahaere, Lisa Tumahai.
“Our whakataukī for our farms is “Toitū te Marae o Tāne; Toitū te Marae o Tangaroa; Toitū te Iwi – “ Land Sustained; Water Sustained; People Sustained.” So if we are going to be true to our values and true to the value of kaitiakitanga, of being a good steward over our land, water and people, we have to be prepared to work with these experts to ensure we are doing our best.”
Minister for the Environment Amy Adams congratulated Ngāi Tahu and Lincoln University on coming together and understanding how critical this research is.
“This will be the most developed monitoring programme on any commercial dairy farm in New Zealand. So it will certainly help understand and improve how we farm in Canterbury, but I think we will see this sort of information used across the country to help us refine and reform those regulatory frameworks and farm management practices,” she says.
Ngāi Tahu Property chief executive, Tony Sewell confirmed that the forward-thinking research partnership would give Ngāi Tahu Farming a valuable and accurate insight into the impact it is having on the environment.
“Understanding our impact will help us make educated farming decisions to minimise the movement of harmful contaminants and ensure we are at the forefront of dairying and doing our best to uphold Ngāi Tahu values,” he says.