Key Elements for Engaging Dairy Farmers in Action Towards Healthy Waterways: a Case Study in the Aorere Catchment, New Zealand
Over the past few years, there has been increasing attention in New Zealand drawn to the pollution of water bodies from dairy farm effluent, and ways to mitigate this. The aim of this research is to identify the key elements involved in engaging farmers in community based action to mitigate agricultural water pollution. The study examines a Landcare project that has shown signs of apparent success, entitled the Aorere Catchment Project (ACP), in Golden Bay, New Zealand. The ACP was initiated after the Aorere River was found to have high pathogen levels, likely resulting from dairy farm runoff. This research evaluates the projects apparent success, and follows the evolution of the project to gain an understanding of the key success factors in engaging farmers. Surveys of dairy farmers in the Aorere valley were undertaken in 2007 and again in 2010 to identify management practices and identify changes in issues and farmer attitudes over this period. This study found that the ACP has had extensive success, both in resolving waterway issues and engaging farmers in action for healthy waterways. The underlying community led philosophy of the project has been vital in the success of this project. The key project principles, ‘farmers as leaders’, and ‘experts on tap not on top’ have contributed greatly to the projects uptake. There are however some catchment specific elements that have aided the apparent success of this initiative. The Aorere catchment project model unchanged would not be suitable for every catchment in New Zealand, as not all the elements of success were under the projects control. The model does however serve as a good example for similar projects in other New Zealand catchments, and also the importance of a suitable indicator of success.