Biodiversity on farms
Traditionally, conservation efforts have focused on the remnants of indigenous habitats (often protected in reserves and national parks), rather than viewing farms as potential allies in stemming the loss of native flora and fauna. Farms often have patches of native bush in gullies, and some native birds make their homes on farms. The Queen Elizabeth II National Trust helps landowners protect remnant habitats on farms and other private property. There is also a push to preserve or create small wetland areas on farms.
Farmers have often been leaders in efforts to control problematic invasive species, such as possums, rabbits and weeds, and can have a significant role in preserving and restoring biodiversity.
Raising whitebait on dairy dung?
Fisheries consultant Charles Mitchell is experimenting with ways to ‘farm’ New Zealand’s native whitebait, which have never been successfully reared in captivity to date. Among his innovative ideas is to grow the larvae, and other life forms that it needs to survive, in recycled dairy farm effluent.
Environmental management agencies
Many national and regional environmental agencies promote voluntary and collaborative approaches to environmental protection and restoration. However, studies have shown that, regardless of how much information and knowledge most farmers had about environmental management, any decision to adopt specific practices was largely based on financial factors.
In 1941 New Zealand was the first country in the world to establish an organic agriculture organisation. In 1983 a growing world market for organic food led to the formation of the New Zealand Biological Producers Council, which wrote Bio-Gro standards to certify organic production.
Organic farming took off in 1991 when two important food exporters – Wattie’s and the New Zealand Kiwifruit Marketing Board – both established a group of growers to produce Bio-Gro certified organic products. Organic exports expanded in the 1990s, with over 1,000 certified organic growers, several professional certification organisations, and over 100 export companies carrying organic products.
The New Zealand Landcare Trust is a non-governmental organisation that works directly with rural communities and private landowners. It provides support and information to encourage them to manage their land more sustainably and maintain biodiversity.
Clean Streams Accord
The 2005 Clean Streams Accord is an agreement between New Zealand’s largest dairy cooperative, Fonterra, and representatives of national and regional government. It compels Fonterra’s farmers to follow practices designed to stem the damage from intensive dairying to water quality of waterways and estuaries. These practices include fencing waterways to keep stock out, complying with local government regulations regarding farm effluent, and limiting fertiliser use. The target is for full compliance with the accord by 2012.