Marlborough Express - Collaborative approach creates the best outcomes

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The South Island Farmer of the Year award that was won by Havelock-based Clearwater Mussels is a very well-deserved accolade.

I was pleased to join a field day to see just some of the company's 90 mussel farms in celebration of the award.

What I saw was a fantastic operation that embraced technology, innovation and environmental sustainability as well as people.

Clearwater Mussels have very successfully grasped the principal that if you grow your people, you grow your business.

They shared the award with Omarama Station, a sheep and beef property in the Mackenzie Country that also has hydro and tourism operations, scientific reserves and Department of Conservation and QEII Trust covenants on their property.

The difference between Clearwater Mussels aquaculturebased operations and Omarama Station's land-based operations are night and day. For instance, landbased farming adds nutrients to the land, whereas mussel farming takes nutrients out of the water: an interesting statistic is that a typical mussel, on average, filters 360 litres of water a day.

But what these very different industries have in common is that they strive to use the environment in a sustainable way: Clearwater Mussels has demonstrated this once again by receiving the Farmlands award for best resource management.

However, these businesses operate within tight regulatory frameworks and this can cause some frustrations.

As I said in my speech during the field day, those implementing the rules and regulations have to be careful not to stifle progress and innovation by implementing frameworks that are too rigid.

If users are not able to adapt to changing technologies because it takes too much time and effort to apply for variations to their consent, then industries will inevitably be slow to adapt, if they do adapt at all.

The implementation of a framework that requires multiple layers of consenting with little link to the environmental outcomes sought, for instance, undermines the responsibilities and practices of the industries it affects. Of course, certain rules and regulations are vital to maintaining good farming practices, necessary safety standards, environmental standards and a myriad of other important factors.

But to make it work, there must be a collaborative process between councils and businesses like farming and aquaculture where there is an agreed environmental outcome that both can realistically work, and progress, with.

Only then can our industries reach their full potential and create the best outcome for both the environment and our economy.