Farming for the Future 2015 returns | resilience | responsibility

Following on from the hugely successful 2014 seminar, the South Wairarapa Biodiversity Group is again bringing together farmers, their advisors and invited experts for an interactive day focussed on building knowledge to support sustainable farming in Wairarapa.

9 June 2015




Dr Alison Dewes - Lead Consultant at Headlands farm consultancy
Professor Russell Death - Professor of Freshwater Ecology at Massey University
Joseph Potangaroa - Author and tuna (eel) advocate
Phillip Percy - Director of environmental planning consultancy Perception Planning
Leo and Rebecca Vollebregt - Dairy farmers and winners of the Supreme Balance Farm Environment Award for 2015
Roger Gaskell - Facilitator

Key Topics


Meet at local farms to watch and participate in ecological monitoring of streams in the local area. Prof. Russell Death will explain habitat, water quality and ecology in the field including how sampling is undertaken. Discover a whole community living in the streams and rivers on Wairarapa farms and meet some of their amazing citizens. This session to start the day is about focusing the whole seminar on local farms and the local environment, and having a reference point for applying national or international knowledge that Russell and the other experts will contribute.


Joseph will talk about what is special to people about some of the fresh water species we have in Wairarapa. He will talk about why a resilient ecosystem is important to people and their relationship with what lives in our waterways. While they aren’t warm and fuzzy, Joseph will give you good reason to be proud of what you have living in the streams and drains on your farm. Getting to know and therefore valuing other species that rely on the same natural resources we use for farming is essential for farmers to feel that how they manage their farms contributes to much more than just their and their family's wellbeing.


Russell will draw on some of the sampling undertaken in the first session as well as a sizeable body of research he has supervised on Wairarapa and New Zealand water bodies to explain the science of ecology. He will talk about the scientific factors that underpin the values that Joseph will speak about, the importance of ecological resilience, and describe how what we do on our farms can influence those outcomes. Understanding the science of the effects of farming on the natural environment is important for good decision making on farms. Science is heavily relied on in resource management regulation and farmers are required to adapt their farming systems to meet that regulation. It pays for you to know your Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen from your Macroinvertebrate Index.


Alison will draw on her wealth of experience in farming in NZ and Australia to provide guidance on improving the resilience of your farming business. She will explain the importance of resilience and the risks of not being resilient, with a focus on what you can take home to evaluate and apply to your own business. Alison will also explain why resilient farm businesses support resilient ecosystems and why that is important for the business of farming. Alison will draw on the findings of research she undertook which looked right under the bonnets of farms in the study group to understand the relationship between farm economics and environmental footprint. The Tomorrows Farms Today study produced some significant findings that can be translated to farms across New Zealand.


Leo and Rebecca will describe their farming system and the aspects of it that build resilience. They will explain that resilience doesn’t come at the expense of profitability and that the transition to a resilient farming system is achievable in the Wairarapa. The Vollebregts won the Balance Supreme Farm Environment Award this year and will speak about what motivated them to change their farming system to this winning formula and some of the important decisions they had to make to get there. Change is always easier if someone has been there before to find the pitfalls and learn the hard lessons. Farming is no different and there is huge value in leaders like the Vollebregts telling their story to other farmers.


The Resource Management Act has a large influence on farming businesses. It spawns national policy statements and environmental standards, regional policy statements and plans, district plans and resource consents, all of which affect farming businesses in some way. Phillip will discuss how resilient farming businesses fit with the ultimate goal of the RMA – sustainable management. He will explore what the purpose of rules in regional plans are, what they should be trying to achieve, and ways to minimise the regulatory impact on farming businesses. Not only do farmers need to understand the economics and science of farming, they also need to understand the regulation of farming. New Zealand's participatory processes provide open access to RMA planning but participation is most effective if you understand the system, you know how the detail fits into the big picture and, critically, you actually participate.


Knowledge building is essential for successful sustainable farming businesses in New Zealand. The business of farming is changing and farmers need support to transition their thinking and their farming systems to ensure they are resilient. The South Wairarapa Biodiversity Group is proud to support increasing the resilience of the Wairarapa farming community by organising the Farming for the Future 2015 Seminar and invites other organisations to support this event through sponsorship.

All invited experts donate their time but South Wairarapa Biodiversity covers the cost of their travel to and from the event and accommodation if required. Other costs of the event include venue hire, marketing and advertising and lunch and refreshments for participants. The aim is to keep the cost to farmers as low as possible so financial support from sponsors is very important.

For information on sponsorship or other support please contact Phillip Percy | (06) 306 6105 | 021 441 226

Created with images by Felipe Skroski - "Wairarapa" • Felipe Skroski - "Wairarapa" • erix! - "Stream Monster" • adactio - "Erin feeding the eels" • USDAgov - "A water sample taken from the last wetland" • dcysurfer / Dave Young - "portrait of dairy cow number 34" • woodleywonderworks - "Atlas, it's time for your bath" • Ervins Strauhmanis - "Spider web"

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