In order to do as good as job as possible governing at the Council table, and to make the most of this role, I like to take the time to get to know the organisation 'on the ground'.
This month, mid-January 2021, I spent a day with two Waikato Regional Council staff from the Resource Use Directorate's Farm Regulatory Team to visit several farms.
We met a wide range of farm owners/operators (or family members of such) who sometimes knew a lot or very little about what they were showing us, but Council staff knew what to look for each time since they see these systems every day.
The main task was for us to have a look at the key infrastructure that manages effluent or runoff from the milking sheds or feed pads, including irrigation systems and even the odd underpass. Some were exemplary, some had a few opportunities for improvement and would get an email follow up reminder of what was compliant or not as discussed.
The topics covered were mainly to do with permitted activity rules, which means you can do 'x-y-z' on a farm as long as it meets certain conditions. We checked that those conditions were met. I heard that sometimes a consent condition may also be covered if it makes sense to do so but generally there is a different team that deals with the consented relationships.
There are thousands of farms in the Waikato and I see Waikato Regional Council as being one of the many organisations that work to keep lifting the bar with them so that the whole industry benefits. It's not always perfect, or simple, but I saw great intentions and great interactions that day to work together to understand and act in accordance with the rules that keep our environment safe and businesses compliant.
The personal highlight for me was spending a day outside (occasional showers included) and getting to learn a little bit more about what life is like on the ground rather than another day talking about it in the debating chamber.
My time in the dairy industry was mainly manufacturing-site based so its always great to get more exposure to where it all starts on a farm so I can see the bigger picture of an industry that's so important in the Waikato and New Zealand.
A huge thank you to the staff members who organised it and let me tag along; it was a joy and a privilege that has sparked a desire to it more often still.
Enjoying the sunshine of a day outside on the ground.