Mixed views on Ashburton’s proposed $8.6m project to boost the primary sector

Irrigators on a dairy farm near Methven.  (File photo)

Kirk Hargreaves/Stuff

Irrigators on a dairy farm near Methven. (File photo)

“No brainer or a “waste of money”.

Councilors have mixed views on a proposed multimillion-dollar plan to foster successful and sustainable farming in the Ashburton district.

A proposed five-year $8.6 million project will aim to boost the primary sector by using collaboration to tackle the impacts of government legislation and the need to respond to climate change.

The Ashburton District Council led resilient business project is a multi-organizational approach to align the work of farmers, lead bodies, irrigation companies, farm advisors, and local and regional government, that will develop solutions together.

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The council’s economic development manager, Simon Worthington, said the project had the backing of the farming community and the leading bodies, and the collaboration had been in development for 18 months to get to the funding application stage.

Councilor Leen Braam said a decision to support the project applying to the Ministry for Primary Industry’s (MPI) sustainable farming futures fund was “a no brainer”.

“If the farmers are doing well, this whole district does well,” Braam said.

Cr Carolyn Cameron shared his view but not all were as supportive, with Cr Stuart Wilson suggesting it is a waste of money.

Jock the sheep dog monitors the flock on a high country South Island station.

Alden Williams/Stuff

Jock the sheep dog monitors the flock on a high country South Island station.

“One of your plans is to teach farmers, whom you call ignorant about climate change. Are you going to push the government line or what are you actually going to tell,” Wilson said.

“The way it reads is farmers are not [adapting]. They are [adapting]that’s what farmers do.

“I can’t see what we are going to spend $8.6m on, telling farmers to suck eggs.”

He supported the funding application progressing but had doubts if it would achieve what was hoped.

Cr Lynette Lovett, who voted against the funding application, asked if getting involved in the farming industry was a core function of council.

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Worthington said supporting businesses was a core council role.

“The primary sector is such a significant part of our local economy, absolutely the more we can do to stand alongside and assist our primary producers. I think that’s absolutely within the remit of the economic development team within the council.”

The council approved the application, which will be sent to MPI and will be assessed to see if it proceeds to the business case phase.

If the MPI funding is approved, the council will invest about $20,000 per year to the project for the five-year period.

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