Environment Waikato chairman Peter Buckley says he has been impressed by the commitment shown by agricultural sector leaders to better managing farming’s impact on water and soil health in the Waikato.
Cr Buckley was speaking after yesterday’s Waikato Agriculture Summit in Hamilton, which was attended by about 80 local government politicians, farming leaders, agricultural industry officials, local and central government staff, finance industry representatives and environmental groups.
Participants agreed to a Waikato Agriculture Summit declaration under which they gave an ongoing commitment to working together to develop new solutions for managing agriculture’s impact on the environment, and to implementing existing solutions.
"There was strong unity over the need to find solutions to the problems we face so we can maintain a healthy agriculture-based economy in the region while ensuring we do more to protect the environment," said Cr Buckley.
The summit was called by Cr Buckley following the recent publication of the regional council’s water and soil report, which looked at the impacts on the environment of the intensification of agriculture.
The summit heard how Environment Waikato had previously developed policies and rule frameworks that gave farmers considerable operational freedom for most activities, provided they stuck to environmental protection rules. That regime was backed by an extensive environmental monitoring network to ensure that the policies were working.
The water and soil report said the monitoring had shown that, as agriculture has intensified, water and soil quality has continued to face increasing pressures in many areas, and the trends were expected to continue.
"There was broad agreement at the summit that we all needed to do more to manage farming’s environmental impact in the Waikato," said Cr Buckley.
"There was also a general recognition that more hard, detailed thinking was required before we could arrive at the best solutions.
"The report and summit have, I believe, focused people’s attention on the issues and promoted a common sense of ownership of the need to find solutions.
"For its part Environment Waikato will be analysing the information coming out of the workshops at the summit to see what ideas might help us as we develop our thinking."
Cr Buckley noted that EW and Fonterra had announced before the summit that they were already starting to develop an agreement about what future environmentally sustainable dairying in the region should look like.
"I’m hoping that the summit will further develop linkages between EW and the farming sector so that our partnership approach to addressing the issues is strengthened.
"We are willing to work with anyone on getting things right for the Waikato."