In years gone by, farmers – and I would be a classic example – have had a casual approach to the environment and our waterways. It was generally accepted that we could tip our effluent down the drains, into streams and rivers, out to sea, never to be seen again and it didn’t affect anybody.
But now, certainly, with intensification of dairying and our town cousins coming out to the country, it has made us a lot more aware about having clean waterways.
I have been farming for 15 years. Before that I was an earthmoving contractor, which means I have had a close association with agriculture for probably 50 years. I did notice, that whether you were in earthmoving or farming, we all had a pretty similar attitude.
We needed to be brought kicking and squealing into the 21st century. At one stage, there was us farmers in one court and regional council in the other. There has been a meeting of ways. We are all working to a common end. Regional council staff are very, very approachable, helping us with education and giving us ideas if we have problems with compliance.
We farm 110 hectares, and have 320 cows. That’s probably a little bit below average. Having fewer stock is much better for the environment – putting pressure on the land puts extra pressure on the waterways.
Managing effluent is the big issue. At one time we used to spread effluent through early spring when the soil was saturated, and that wasn’t good, it could just run off into the streams. But it was allowed at the time. Now, the regional council requires us to have enough storage to keep effluent so we can irrigate at an appropriate time.
Our farm is surrounded by a gully system that flows into the Waipa River. We’ve planted this in natives, fenced them off. We planted back quite a bit so it forms a bit of a buffer zone, so the trees uptake any nutrients that run off the land so they can’t enter the water. The Waipa River is, as the crow flies, about 2½ kilometres away.
We have consent to take water for stock, shed use and milk cooling. I am looking at what is coming out of our bore at the moment, it’s been so dry, and I’m thinking, whoa, I hope this is sustainable? We are right on the limit of what we are allowed to take. In 100 years’ time, we don’t want to be responsible for them saying those useless old buggers, they stuffed the environment because they done this and that.