Andrew Myers has succeeded retiring Waipā ward member Mike Montgomerie on the Fonterra Cooperative Council and shares his thoughts today.
For those of you that don’t know me, I live in Roto-o-Rangi between Cambridge and Te Awamutu with my wife and two children. We lead a third generation dairy business supplying Fonterra. Waipa has been home for a long time and hopefully will be well into the future.
I’ve decided to get more involved in the representation space because I care about our district’s future and how it affects our ability to operate. I wish to share with you some of my thoughts.
Dairying has a very long history in our area and therefore is made up of a lot of farms, many of these are now smaller than the New Zealand average. These farms are especially vulnerable to fragmentation and can miss out on economies of scale. Land values are high such that younger farmers struggle to be attracted to a low rate of return. These factors are impeding continuation. Arguably nowhere more than Waipa are we seeing pressure on dairy land use and reduction in dairying area.
Fonterra has decided to take a lead on improving how we farm in terms of environmental effects in attempt to give us the best shot at claiming our right to continue doing what we do. I support this.
However, it feels like Fonterra farmers have been asked to shoulder the brunt of public scrutiny and do the country’s heavy lifting to reduce emissions. The previous government’s rhetoric was simple rhetoric – create a sinking lid on cow numbers and dairy land will reduce emissions.
This works on face value, except that urban expansion continues unabated and has become a new panacea turning the economic engine. Urban and lifestyle conversion from pastoral land uses emits far more emissions – forever – than the farming land ever did. Hence the hypocrisy of the need to reduce dairy farm area, carbon sink green pastures, to become carbon dioxide hotspot subdivisions.
The Waipa area has significant character and natural features which are the envy of many. Quaint towns, numerous lakes and waterways, forested mountains, and rolling landscapes. Local leaders are already using these to creating a better future for Waipa. Farming needs to be more integral to that future.
Conversion of pastoral land to that which houses people moves us away from this. It doesn’t focus on productivity, rather the opposite. In urban areas there are more people, demanding more infrastructure, consuming more, making more emissions.
Conversely on the farm we are driven to do more with less, less cows to do the same output and have less wastage. Fonterra has rightly picked up on this with its new emissions metrics per unit of farm output.
I believe in working as a team, my aim is to listen to and to encourage all Fonterra farmers to stay united and try to work together to move forwards. There is far more that we have in common than what differentiates us.
There is a lot at stake, including the future of our co-operative.