Government commits $9m to help Southland farmers lift environmental game

Government commits $9m to help Southland farmers lift environmental game
Photo credit: Newshub

The Government is to fund a new project to hep Southland farmers and growers improve how they manage the environment.  

Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor announced the Thriving Southland Change and Innovation Project as the first region-wide initiative supported by the $229 million Sustainable Land Use package announced in Budget 2019.

O'Connor said the project, involving more than 1000 Southland farmers and growers, will receive $6-9 million to help make the changes required to lift their environmental sustainability and unlock more value for their hard work.

"Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing agriculture and one of the biggest long-term challenges for New Zealand.

"Our farmers and growers are committed to making genuine change. Many are already doing it, but they need practical information about what steps to take, clear direction about what to aim for and support to take action," he said.

The initiative would see clusters of farmers and growers formed to share information, insights and advice.

Thriving Southland chairman Ewen Mathieson said the project would build on the good work of the combined catchment groups.

"Southland communities have proven to be innovative, and as we begin to understand what our direction needs to be, we will see our farming communities implement change in a positive way," he said.

O'Connor said overseas consumers increasingly wanted greater assurances that the food and fibre they bought was produced in a sustainable way.

"New Zealand's future wellbeing, including the wellbeing of our rural communities, depends on an economy that is both environmentally sustainable and generates high value for its people."

The Thriving Southland Change and Innovation Project is expected to cover at least 21 local catchment groups and spans the sheep and beef, deer, arable, horticulture and dairy sectors.