What is the problem?
50% of Aotearoa New Zealand’s land cover is pastoral farming, and pastoral land contains one quarter of all remaining native vegetation which we know is in decline.
This project aims to make it much easier for farmers to integrate existing native biodiversity into their farming systems and protect and enhance what biodiversity already exists on their land. The NZ Landcare Trust is leading this project and is supported by Living Water, Silver Fern Farms and the BioHeritage National Science Challenge/Ngā Koiora Tuku Iho. The Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures), administrated by the Ministry for Primary Industries, is contributing 70 percent of the $1.4 million funding. It runs from October 2021 until June 2023.
The project evolved from Farming and Nature Conservation, a research project supported by the NZ Biological Heritage National Science Challenge. We also know from the biodiversity assessments on farm pilot carried out by Living Water on Fonterra farms, that the biggest barriers to farmers taking action were limited access to good advice and ecological expertise and the cost of preparing farm biodiversity plans. Building on this information, by 2023 the project aims to have expertise and resources easily accessible to farmers and their advisors.
What is currently preventing enhancing and protecting native biodiversity?
The key gaps and challenges for improving biodiversity on farms are:
Knowledge gaps: Most farmers and farm advisors are not trained in ecology and do not have ready access to the information or expert advice required to manage native biodiversity.
Capability and cost gaps: There aren’t many independent ecologists with skills in applying ecology to farm systems plus this one-to-one advice is costly. Management of ecological areas is a long term commitment and can be costly.
Information gaps: Tools, funding and information exist, but can be dis-jointed or not applicable at a farm scale, hard to find and vary in depth by region.
Regulatory gaps: It is confusing knowing what the next right action in a changing regulatory landscape.
Living Water’s catchment work, Professor David Norton’s work in the Farming & Nature Conservation project and biodiversity work in post-quake Kaikōura and the 1 Billion Trees ambassador approach have all found having an on-farm ecologist with farm planning awareness has been the most effective way forward. Currently this kind of service is costly due to the time it takes to complete farm assessments and there aren’t enough independent ecologists with farm knowledge.
How will the project address these challenges?
The pilot aims to learn by doing. There are many problems and challenges in providing guidance on biodiversity management and enhancement on-farm. The pilot will collect feedback on what farmers and farm advisors need and learn how to best communicate the science principles that inform biodiversity management, monitoring and enhancement to farmers and advisors.
Step 1: increase the number of skilled biodiversity experts who understand farming by developing and training land advisors about native biodiversity.
Step 2: make relevant resources available in an online hub, like training videos, how to guides, fact sheets etc available aimed at farmers and farm advisors
How will the project be kept on track?
This pilot will be set up with a core project team who will be developing, planning and doing the pilot. This team will involve a:
- Project Manager and lead Scientist
- Project Co-ordinator
- Two ecology masters graduates, a research officer and Māori culture and environment specialist
- Contracted media, design, training, and communications expertise
There is a Project Steering Group made up of key partners (checking project and budget is on track and meeting milestones) and subject matter experts will be sort out to ensure a high level of expertise and value is delivered by the resource.
The long-term outcome is for landowners and advisors to have easy access to neutral, trusted biodiversity knowledge to identify what native biodiversity exists on their land and how to manage it. Sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with the latest on this project.