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Franklin Sustainability Project

The intensive land use in the Franklin district has a range of impacts on its natural resources. The most significant of these have been identified as soil erosion, soil degradation and quality of both surface and ground water. The confronting images of soil washing through people’s homes, businesses and a school at the foot of Pukekohe Hill in May 1996 galvanised the PVGA to initiate a project that would have far reaching benefits well into the future. The Franklin Sustainability Project was born and while its foundation was minimising soil erosion it became the catalyst for a much wider ranging review of what was needed to change to make vegetable production more sustainable.

Grower led innovation

A project of this magnitude requires a multi-stakeholder approach. The partners included the Pukekohe Vegetable Growers Association (PVGA – approximately 350 growers), Vegfed (national grower body now Hort NZ), government (Ministry for the Environment and MAF now MPI), councils (Franklin District and Auckland Regional Council now combined as Auckland Council, and Environment Waikato), researchers (Crop and Food, and Hort Research now combined as Plant and Food Research, and Landcare Research) the facilitators and project managers were Agriculture New Zealand (while Andrew was working for AgNZ) and later under the guidance of Andrew at Agrilink.

The Franklin District is known for its versatile soils and commercial vegetable production which supplies both national and international markets with a variety of produce.  The intensive land use in the district has a range of impacts on its natural resources. The most significant of these have been identified as soil erosion,  soil degradation and quality of both surface and ground water. All of these factors relate to the sustainability of vegetable production. The PVGA are actively involved in representing grower interests and wanted to see practical,  cost-effective land management systems developed and promoted for its members. The councils have the responsibility for administering the Resource Management Act. The challenge was to bring these two groups together to find a solution that satisfied both their objectives., FSP became a blueprint for using an inclusive multi-stakeholder approach,  as opposed to regulation,  to address the impacts of intensive land.  The approach was proactive and used information transfer,  research,  and consultation as methods to achieve change in land management practices.

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This lead to a greater sense of environmental understanding and ownership of new land management practices., The PVGA were presented with The Green Ribbon Award by The Honourable Marion Hobbs Minister for the Environment in 2000 for outstanding leadership and commitment to environmental protection. The project was recognised as an innovative community-based project which positively changed grower attitudes and behaviour in Pukekohe., Over the course of the project,  workshops,  field days,  trials and demonstrations were held to promote good practice amongst growers on surface water management,  erosion and sediment control,  fertiliser use,  irrigation,  integrated pest management,  and soil health. A number of good practices were identified and trialled over the projects initial three years. These were compiled into a set of guidelines called ‘Doing it Right’,  which was officially launched in October 2000.

Continuation

In 2002 after a period of reflection FSP was reborn to champion the ‘Doing it Right’ best management practice guidelines. The focus became disseminating sustainable land management practices directly to growers through an extremely resourceful and dedicated Field Officer,  Glenys Pellow. Agrilink once again managed this project as part of the very successful MAF Sustainable Farming Fund programme. , More recently Horticulture NZ and the PVGA have commissioned Agrilink to prepare an updated version on Erosion & Sediment Control – Guidelines for Vegetable Production – Good Management Practices (August 2012).

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About Agrilink

Agrilink provides consultancy services to individual clients and their industry organisations to optimise resource use efficiency through developing and implementing practical solutions. We apply this knowledge to our project management of large multi-stakeholder projects., Agrilink has the most comprehensive resource use inventory of NZs primary production systems. We combine this with our life cycle thinking to focus on improving business profitability while partnering to create a better world.

The erosion control measure ‘wheel track ripping’ was shown to reduce soil loss from 21 to 1 tonne/ha.