A FARMER-LED programme to provide more support to Southland’s growing catchment group network is gearing up.
Thriving Southland chairman Ewen Mathieson said the group was keen to hear ideas from people keen to drive change in the primary sector.
Ten post-Covid-19 get-togethers are being held in late June and July throughout the region for people to hear more about the programme and share ideas.
“One of the key things we’re mindful of is that this is not just about farming, it speaks to everyone living in the Southland region and a sense of reconnecting as a community,” Mr Mathieson said.
The project is funded through the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Extension Services and Sustainable Land Use package as a farmer-led extension project.
Since 2016, Southland farmers have built a region-wide catchment group model consisting of more than 20 groups, with new groups also being established.
Mr Mathieson said the global, national and local circumstances people found themselves in had changed markedly since Thriving Southland was officially launched by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor in December.
“While we all recognise the damaging impact Covid-19 has had across many communities and industries, it has reasserted the importance of farming and food production,” Mr Mathieson said.
The Government has said primary producers’ innovation and collective effort would form an important part of the economic recovery from Covid-19, he said.
“Our food production story is going to be more important than ever.”
Thriving Southland’s goal was to support primary producers to continue doing what they did best and fibre sustainably, Mr Mathieson said.
The programme would support groups in farmer and rural community wellness initiatives, and also to help lead discussion and action around farm system and water quality improvements, where necessary in Southland.
Mr Mathieson said the organisation would provide continuity, and build on its achievements, working alongside primary industry stakeholders, non-government organisations and local government.
Last year, Thriving Southland held initial information-gathering workshops with catchment groups around Southland.
In February, members were at the Southern Field Days at Waimumu, and also briefed the Southland Catchment Group Forum on progress.
They were continuing to gather ideas and feedback to inform the project work plan and were establishing a team to support people in the field, he said.