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Published: 2011-07-01 00:00:00

Waikato Regional Council has given an environmental ‘tick’ to beef from farms at the heart of a world-leading project to protect the excellent water quality of Lake Taupo.

The certification mark is part of a trial being run by two Taupo farms to gauge whether diners will pay a premium for beef produced in compliance with New Zealand’s most stringent environmental rules to protect water quality. This week Waikato Regional Council confirmed the new rules which will become fully operative on 7 July.

The farms, Glen Emmreth Farm owned by Mike and Sharon Barton and Hurakia Station, a Maori trust farm managed by Andrew and Rachael Mitchell, are conducting the four-month trial at three Taupo restaurants under the brand Taupo Beef: grown right here.

Chairman Peter Buckley said the council’s endorsement recognised environmentally sustainable farming practices and assured the public the beef was produced in a way that complied with new rules to protect the lake.

“Consumers are increasingly seeking confirmation that their food is produced in environmentally sustainable ways,” Cr Buckley said.

“This environmental endorsement confirms these farmers have accepted a cap on the livestock they carry and will manage their farming operations under strict external monitoring to ensure Lake Taupo’s excellent water quality is absolutely protected,” Cr Buckley said.

“It is exciting to see this ground-breaking project is encouraging initiatives that deliver both economic and environmental benefits.”

Taupo is the first place in the world where a regulatory cap-and-trade system has been put in place to cap the amount of nitrogen entering water through soil and groundwater from a non-point source, in this case, livestock.  It is an initiative that has evolved over the past 10 years and has involved all stakeholders in the Lake Taupo area.

“This council is pleased to support farmers who have adapted their farming systems to protect water quality and are compliant with the rules to protect Lake Taupo.”

Glen Emmreth Farm’s Mike and Sharon Barton have been involved in the development of the rules covering farming in the catchment. Mr Barton is a trustee of the Lake Taupo Protection Trust. More than 20 per cent of the Barton’s farm is in conservation and river bank plantings. The farm is also involved in trials of new low nitrogen leaching farming methods.

At least 25 per cent of Hurakia Trust Farm, managed by Andrew and Rachael Mitchell on behalf of 800 people, is in conservation or riparian plantings. The trustees have recently taken the decision to retire a further 147 ha of farmland to protect the lake and increase biodiversity. They have recently begun a trial to test ways of mitigating nutrient leaching from hill country beef systems.