Ngāi Tahu Farming and Lincoln University partner for best dairy farm practices

Today (Friday 6 December) the Mana Whenua Working Party, Ngāi Tahu Farming and Lincoln University announced, in front of invited guests, which included the Minister for the Environment, Hon Amy Adams, a partnership to support the development of the Ngāi Tahu Farming portfolio in Eyrewell, North Canterbury.

Under the partnership agreement, Lincoln University will provide a three-year programme of environmental, biodiversity and water resource monitoring. The programme will consist of two objectives: environmental monitoring of nitrate leaching and valuing biodiversity through restoration planting.

The Eyrewell farming development is 40km northwest of Christchurch and sits within the takiwā (tribal area) of Ngāi Tahu hapu (sub-tribe), Ngāi Tūāhuriri. Ngāi Tahu Farming began dairy farming on the site in 2012.

The Mana Whenua Working Party is made up of members of Ngāi Tahu hapu who hold mana whenua (authority) over the Hurunui and Waimakariri River catchments associated with Ngāi Tahu Farming’s Eyrewell and Balmoral developments.

Cultural and environmental aspirations have been the top priorities for mana whenua, says Ngāi Tūāhuriri Chair and member of the Mana Whenua Working Party, Clare Williams.

“Our main concern is nutrient levels in waterways. We don’t want our farms to adversely affect our waterways because that’s where we get our kai from,” says Clare.

The environmental monitoring of Ngāi Tahu Eyrewell Dairy Farms will involve direct measurements of nitrate leaching losses. Lysimeters (large tubes containing undisturbed columns of soil) will be used to measure the nitrate leaching loss in drainage water. The lysimeters will be installed in an on-farm facility on farm one. This facility will be constructed within a monitor paddock on the dairy farm. The facility will also serve as an on-farm laboratory suitable for visitors to inspect.

Ngāi Tahu Property Chief Executive Tony Sewell says the research is forward-thinking and will allow us to better manage our farming businesses.

“We are pleased to be teaming up with the expertise of Lincoln University. The research will give us valuable and accurate insight into the impact we are having on the environment. Understanding our impact will help us to make educated farming decisions to minimize the movement of harmful contaminants, it will ensure we are at the forefront of dairying and that we are doing our best to uphold Ngāi Tahu values,” says Tony.

The biodiversity programme will protect and expand vegetation remnants within the farms and enhance the future trajectory of the ecological restoration. More than 150 hectares is already set-aside for native plants and animals. This project will provide a template for establishment, monitoring and enhancement of native habitats, focussing on the ecological and environmental benefits of restoration planting. The goal is to add value to the Ngāi Tahu Farming development at Eyrewell, which will provide a template for dairy farms in the future.

“Lincoln University will help Ngāi Tahu Farming operate profitably within environmental safeguards so that all expectations are met,” says Lincoln University Vice-Chancellor, Dr Andrew West.

Lincoln University’s Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Professor Bruce McKenzie adds that it is important that partnerships like this are formed, that will have positive impacts on the sustainability of our natural environment.

“There has been much public commentary of late about the impact dairying is having on our environment and the need to mitigate environmental impacts. Lincoln University has the research knowledge and capability to work in collaboration with key dairying partners like Ngāi Tahu Farming, to improve nutrient use and provide farmers with information to manage farming systems efficiently. Once the lysimeters are in place on Ngāi Tahu Farming’s Eyrewell Dairy Farm, this will be the most sophisticated, automatic monitoring facility that has been constructed on a commercial dairy farm,” says Professor McKenzie.