A “no-brainer” or a “waste of money”.
Councillors had mixed views on a proposed multi-million dollar plan to foster successful and sustainable farming in the district.
A proposed five-year $8.6 million dollar project will aim to boost the primary sector by using collaboration to tackle the impacts of government legislation and the need to respond to a changing climate.
The Ashburton District Council-led resilient business project is a multi-organisational approach to align the work of farmers, lead bodies, irrigation companies, farm advisors, and local and regional government that will develop solutions together.
Council’s economic development manager, Simon Worthington, said the project has the backing of the farming community and the lead bodies, and the collaboration has been in development for 18 months to get to the funding application stage.
Councillor Leen Braam said a decision to support the project applying to the Ministry for Primary Industry’s sustainable farming futures fund was “a no- brainer”.
“If the farmers are doing well, this whole district does well,” Braam.
Councillor Carolyn Cameron shared his view, but not all were as supportive, with councillor Stuart Wilson suggesting it was a waste of money.
“One of your planks is to teach farmers, who 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 $8.6 million on telling farmers to suck eggs.”
He supported the funding application progressing, but had doubts if it will achieve what is hoped.
Councillor Lynette Lovett, who voted against the funding application, asked if getting involved in the farming industry was a core function of council.
Worthington said supporting businesses is 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 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 around $20,000 per year to the project for the five-year period.
- By Jonathan Leask