Farming with Native Biodiversity Pilot update

Farming with Native Biodiversity Pilot update

We are halfway through the 20-month Farming with Native Biodiversity pilot project and have visited thirty-five beef and sheep farms throughout the country. The project aims to share knowledge amongst famers to support on-farm decision-making and farm environment planning, through developing the capability to consider and integrate biodiversity outcomes within economically viable farms. Iwi, farmers and farm managers alike have shown immense hospitality to the project team. Sharing in-depth farming knowledge was a critical step for the pilot outcomes.
Healthy ecosystems with high biodiversity values are essential for truly sustainable farming. Wins for native biodiversity also mean wins for farming. The project team (listed below) work with farmers, Iwi, farm advisors, catchment groups, and industry leaders to co-develop resources to support bringing biodiversity into farm systems thinking. The principal goal is to develop enduring resources that provide outcomes for both native biodiversity and pastoral farming.
The project is working to ensure te ao Māori is incorporated throughout; a critical insight gained from visiting two Iwi-led farms is the Trustees' intergenerational obligation. They are acutely aware that their responsibilities go beyond the provision of financial returns. Significant learning across the project is both farmer and Iwi awareness of the ethos of protecting the land and water for future generations while maintaining financial security.

Caleb Royal, Mātauranga Māori advisor and Ecologist, notes that "kaitiakitanga is increasingly important for Trustees to demonstrate to the beneficial owners, and the same applies for pastoral farmers in maintaining a social license to farm."

The Māori land trusts have also provided lessons in how farm management and positive biodiversity outcomes can be attained through whanaungatanga (coming together and sharing). Having multiple people at the governance level increases the diversity of skills available to support specific farm needs, such as funding applications and technical solutions. Within the pilot project, the pastoral farming community have repeatedly identified time and money constraints as barriers to achieving biodiversity actions on farm. The expression of whanaungatanga requires people to come together to support collective actions.

Farming with Native Biodiversity Pilot update

The pastoral farming community can benefit by expressing whanaungatanga through biodiversity actions such as participating in catchment communities, collective funding proposals, and community planting days. These actions could support the wairua (wellbeing) of those farmers involved.
Many farmers have identified mental health as an ongoing challenge. Acknowledgement of whanaungatanga and the coming together of the farming community can have the added benefit of elevating the wairua or the spiritual uplifting of those involved. Achieving biodiversity actions within catchment communities also galvanises the minds of those involved to create a community or Kōtahitanga (unity of thought, of one mind).

Another key finding is that a landscape scale plant and an animal pest problem is a major nationwide challenge for on-farm native biodiversity. This problem needs a collaborative, cohesive and ongoing approach in partnership with landowners, local government and the wider community.

These Māori approaches present a unique way of fostering a collective responsibility in achieving and sustaining biodiversity on pastoral farms, with the added benefit of alleviating pressure on individual farmers.

An operational example of extraordinary results that can be achieved through Kōtahitanga is the awarding-winning Eastern Whio project.

A relevant whakataukī (Māori proverb) is:

‘Mā pango, mā whero, ka oti ae te mahi’,
'Through you and I, the work will be completed.'

• Esther Richardson (Project Manager)
• Emeritus Professor David Norton (Science Lead)
• Caleb Royal (Mātauranga Māori advisor and Ecologist),
• Josh Foster (Ecologist),
• Becky Clements (Ecologist),
• Tyler Jarman (Ecologist)
• Angela Parkin (Project Coordinator)