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ForestX Comment

David Dysart runs a dairy farm in Marotiri, Ken Blakemore currently runs a sizeable deer unit near Rangiora with retirement on the horizon, while Soni Harris and Stu Parker are grazing beef in South East Otago. All three are very different farming operations located in three quite diverse regions of rural New Zealand and yet, they have one thing in common. They represent a snapshot of the growing awareness by farmers who have acknowledged the need to rethink and be proactive in addressing the future environmental challenges that lie before us.

The 470ha Dysart farm is milking around 700 cows once a day, carries about 50 steers, plus replacement stock and a few sheep on 370ha of effective pasture land. The more marginal land has produced one rotation of trees which were recently harvested. Although this crop was not subject to the ETS the subsequent replanting of the second rotation is in the process of completing registration. Harvesting of the first rotation presented the perfect time to consider further strategic options, to reduce risk by diversification and increase resilience and sustainability.

Although Ken Blakemore is currently running a substantial deer unit close to Rangiora, and has done so for the past 32 years, his attention is now turning to slowing down, giving the body a rest, and retiring to a bush block he has purchased in the Kaikoura region. This presents a very interesting aspect of eligibility under the current ETS scheme, for rather than having to plant and maintain an exotic species to qualify for the benefits of carbon farming, part of Ken's block is regenerating native which, historically was clear pasture in the 1989/90 period. The opportunity to secure this passive retirement income from the regenerating native has come as an unexpected bonus providing more comfort for Ken's retirement.

Similarly, Soni Harris and her partner Stu Parker have engaged in a restructure to facilitate more efficiencies as well as introduce economic diversification to increase future security on the 330ha South East Otago dry stock grazing unit. The property lends itself to planting of an exotic species with the objective of capitalising on timber production and/or carbon farming which, to a large degree will replace the small dairy unit they currently have on the market. The plantings will be a perfect complement to the rolling pasture contour of the well tracked property, introducing a highly productive activity onto marginal land with a minimum of labour requirement.

As previously mentioned, all three of the forgoing examples are located in diverse regions and represent examples of opportunities that are all part of the existing Emission Trading Scheme as it stands today. There are still many questions yet to be clarified in the big climate change picture and no doubt, once the final decisions become legislation they will, over time, be modified and improved to accommodate further trends and needs of our changing times. This is now part of our daily conversation. Someone once said that 'our only constant companion now is change', and you would have to agree there is truth in that. These examples are a very small illustration that our people on the land are not only acknowledging the need for change but are actively engaged in being proactive to adjust and tweak their operations, aligning them to protect their own objectives for the future, while satisfying their obligations and their own initiatives in combatting the effects of climate change.

The other common thread that runs through the examples quoted, is the role qualified advice will, and is playing in guiding these recommendations. The owners of all three properties have been very astute in doing their homework first and taking advice. We are now in a game that has new rules. We have never played it before and will therefore stumble from time to time along the way.