#4: Farmer support through funding and access to expertise
Sandra and Ian Matthews farm 536ha Te Kopae Station, which borders the Rere Falls. They have long been concerned about the falls – not only due to the risk of farm-related activity, but also the growing number of visitors, who don’t always leave the place as they found it.
Sandra says that when the Gisborne District Council erected signs in recent years, stating that the Wharekopae River water quality was unacceptable for swimming, she felt a community responsibility to get involved.
“External funding was not even on our minds. Our driver was to ascertain why there was a problem, then plan how to improve the situation. Being advised – when we were already into the Rere project – that funding was available was a great show of support from the council and also the Ministry for the Environment towards the local farming community and what we were trying to achieve.”
Action brought forward by years
The couple had already completed a Level 1 B+LNZ environment planning workshop before the project began, so they knew where their investment would have maximum environmental impact.
The Matthews are fencing off all their river boundaries – both on the Wharekopae River and the Makaretu River, which feeds into the Wharekopae. Any future funding will be used for planting along these river fronts, then fencing off and planting other tributaries and wetland areas on the station.
These actions were initially planned when the Level 1 plan was completed, then expanded in Leve1 2. The council funding meant they could happen years earlier.
Access to expert advice
In addition to funding and the B+LNZ-funded environmental workshops, the Rere project provided farmers with free advisory support from AgFirst consultant Erica van Reenen, to help complete a Farm Environment Plan.
“This was a really important part of the project,” says Sandra. “Erica helped us look outside the square and consider other aspects of our environmental planning. Without Erica’s input, we wouldn’t have drilled down so far and identified the outcomes we are now seeking.”
Get to an environmental planning workshop
Sandra urges all farmers to attend level 1 and 2 environmental planning workshops. “As you work through, clarity comes and this all becomes a more important part of your business planning, if it wasn’t already.
“It benefits not only your own farming business, but the wider community. We are all in this together.”
Erica says that environment plans initiate action and support ongoing review. “I'm yet to meet a farmer who doesn’t want to hand their land on to the next generation in a better state. This process helps keep you on the right track.”