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Dairy Leadership Forum

7 November 2007

Dairy Leadership Forum

An inaugural leadership forum has this week brought together some of the nation’s top dairy farmers in an effort to empower them to drive sustainable environmental change in their own communities.

Convened by Industry Good organisation NewCo and the New Zealand Farm Environment Award Trust, the ‘Building Dairy Environment Leaders Forum’ is an initiative developed under the Dairy Industry’s Strategy for Sustainable Environmental Management.

Released in 2006, this Strategy sets out a plan of action to reduce the industry’s environmental footprint while maintaining industry viability over the next 10 years. It is supported by an investment of more than $30 million over five years.

NewCo is leading the implementation of the Strategy on the ground and working to deliver on-farm tools and best practice techniques to help dairy farmers be more proactive about environmental management. NewCo Chief Executive Tim Mackle says leadership and engagement at a national and regional level is crucial to achieving the industry’s targets.

“Leadership is a critical to enhancing the credibility of the industry, raising the profile of sustainable environmental management among farmers, and ensuring that regulators are aware of the industry’s position, needs and concerns,” he says.

Tim Mackle says the forum is the first step in developing an active network of highly effective regional dairy farming leaders that are equipped to lead and engage on environmental matters within, and on behalf of, the dairy industry.

“We are pleased to be working in partnership with the Farm Environment Awards Trust to bring together some of our most progressive environmental leaders.

“We hope that by equipping them with the right tools and knowledge, they can build on the leadership they have shown to date and act as advocates, mentors and spokespeople to help drive change on the farm and get consistent messages across to key decision makers in the community.”

New Zealand Farm Environment Awards Trust Chairman Jim Cotman says the forum involves more than 30 farmers from across the country and from regions that are tackling varying environmental issues. There is a wide mix of ages and experience and delegates include award winners from supreme and from the Ballance Farm Environment Awards and the Sharemilker of the Year.

“There are more experienced farmers from family-run farms with 200-300 cows and there are young managers and sharemilkers who run up to 1300 cows. But the one thing they share is a passion for the industry and a commitment to doing everything they can to ensure dairying remains sustainable, profitable and competitive for years to come.”

“Like many farmers, this group has worked hard to make changes to the way they farm to help minimise the effect their businesses are having on the environment.

“We have seen a lot of enthusiasm from them to become more involved in the industry’s programme of work, take on a stronger leadership role within their region, and contribute their own ideas about how we can more effectively resolve the issues we are facing. After the forum we’ll be working with them to turn these ideas and enthusiasm in to action.”

It is hoped in future that a similar forum could be run for sheep and beef farmers. “Issues such as energy efficiency and water quality and quantity aren’t exclusive to the dairy industry,” says Mr Cotman. “They are issues that need to be addressed by everyone, so we hope leaders in the sheep and beef industry see an opportunity to get in behind this concept.”