Formerly Pact Consulting Limited

Impacts of Water Policies on New Zealand Livestock Agriculture and the Ruamāhanga Catchment



New Zealand communities are seeking improved water quality. Applying New Zealand’s legislative framework, policy decisions to achieve these improvements must take account of a range of factors, including the sources of contaminants, and the economic implications of policy changes for resource users such as farmers. This paper outlines key components of agricultural information being used to underpin policy decision-making in the Ruamāhanga River Catchment, and evaluates the economic impacts on farming of one potential policy scenario to achieve improved water quality.

Twelve representative farms are used in the evaluation. Based on this, 24% of the nitrogen load entering the river from livestock agriculture is from dairying, 40% from sheep and beef breeding farms, and 36% from sheep and beef finishing farms. Reducing the nitrogen load in the river from the current levels of 0.64 to 0.53mg/L, requires livestock farmers in the catchment to reduce nitrogen discharges by an estimated 700T of nitrogen per year. Such a water quality target can be achieved if improved farm management practices are adopted, and provided that other human-induced sources of contaminant are also reduced. The costs of the farm management changes required could reduce their contribution to the district GDP by over 10%.


TG Parminter, 2017. Impacts of water policies on New Zealand livestock agriculture and the Ruamāhanga Catchment, Proceedings of the 21st International Farm Management Congress, vol 1, article 24.

Dairying the Choice Career – the DairyNZ ‘People Lift’ Project


People are interested in becoming part of the New Zealand dairy industry by the opportunities to build their own business, work with livestock and be in the outdoors. Making this vision a reality for people on farms and for new entrants to the industry is a shared responsibility for everybody and particularly for sharemilkers and farm owners. This has required an industry focus on people management, human relations and health and safety. In 2015, a two year establishment project was begun by DairyNZ to build increased capability in work place compliance, team leadership and career development amongst on-farm teams.

The project (called People Lift) involved farm teams from 24 farms as well as certified People Management Consultants and DairyNZ extension staff. The strategic design integrated industry-good with paid consultancy and extension events with one-on-one farmer contact.  Farmers and farm staff engaged in a programme of on-farm visits, regional workshops and developing planning tools. 

The People Lift programme has been externally evaluated each year using mixed methods combining quantitative questionnaires (e.g. the Gallup survey) and narratives from the Most Significant Change method. Each year’s results have been analysed using NVivo® before being reviewed by all the project participants. One participant said, ”We are doing the project because we want to make people want to farm. We want this to be their career by choice and not by default … As an employer, I value their ideas and opinions. It’s all about giving them a voice …” Generally, the responses were positive although one farmer left the programme because they felt “that there had been a lack of progress”.

As the establishment phase of the People Lift is completed in 2017, the People Management Consultants are preparing to continue its results with new groups of farmers. Their challenges are to address the wide range of expectations amongst sharemilkers and farmers about the types of skills required for working with people, and how they can make their programmes and planning tools accessible to busy farming teams.

Terry Parminter, John Greer & Lee Astridge, 2018. Fostering change in people management – the DairyNZ ‘People Lift’ Project. Rural Extension and Innovative Systems Journal, vol 14, no. 1, p161-166.

Regional Collaborative Extension Project


The increasingly regulated management of natural resources in New Zealand provides another dimension for agricultural extensionists to consider, alongside the economic and bio-physical dynamics of farming systems. New processes for on-farm learning and system adaptation are needed that address the legal and statutory obligations being imposed on farmers to reflect the values of communities, industry and central government.

DairyNZ and private consultants have worked together with the Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council to assist dairy farmers in that region comply with the regulations while improving on-farm productivity. Dairy farmers in the Waikawa Catchment applied for their landuse consents before the end of 2015 to reduce their estimated nutrient contamination in the catchment by between 5-15%. The significant change enabling this to happen has been that extension participants found that by collaborating across organisations they have been able to join up their capabilities for the good of the industry, rural communities and future generations.

Collaborative Extension, a draft, submitted to the “Rural Extension and Innovation Systems Journal, 2016”.

Selecting farm practices and preparing farm plans for land-use consents in the Manawatu-Wanganui region


Throughout 2014, the Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council and DairyNZ worked with 10 farm consultants assisting dairy farmers preparing farm plans for the regional OnePlan and reducing their risks of contaminating local waterways. The author examines 25 such farm plans from 5 consultants and explains the selection and bundling together of the practices in the plans. The farm plans included a range of similar mitigation practices beginning with the least cost options to achieve reductions in nitrate losses of 5 – 15%. The results indicate the importance of matching potential practices to particular farming systems and farmer circumstances. This work suggests that a short list of practices may be able to be selected for application on farms in specific areas. The impact of those practices upon each farm business will need to be determined for the individual farms in order to reliably enhance farm sustainability and viability.

NZGA 2015, a draft prepared for “Proceedings of the 77th Annual Grassland Conference, vol.77, pp. 275-279”. 2015

Adapting Manawatu Dairy Farms to Regional Council Catchment Targets


The Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council (MWRC) One Plan has identified 29 sensitive water management sub-zones of catchments. The approximately 420 dairy farmers in these sub-zones must prepare farm plans describing the practices that they will use to manage the impacts of potential nutrient, sediment and microbial contamination of their farms. They then use these plans to support their application to the MWRC for a landuse consent.

DairyNZ has worked with MWRC to put in place a pilot project that assists farmers formulate the farming system changes required in their farm plans and to apply for their consents. Two examples are described in this paper of relatively high producing farmers that have successfully participated in the project. These farmers intend to modify their farming systems including increasing their use of dairy effluent, reducing nitrogen fertiliser, improving feed flow, and herd composition, to increase dairy production by 5-15% and at the same time decrease their estimated nitrate leaching by over 10%.

In both examples the farmers have committed themselves to making changes that could be difficult to implement in an uncertain future. The changes will require the farmers to develop their existing skills in farm management even further. Both sets of farmers are motivated by wanting their communities and the public to be more positive about the contribution of dairying to the economy, New Zealand’s way of life and our national environmental stewardship.

Parminter & Ridsdale, a draft, prepared for “Moving farm systems to improved attenuation. (Eds L.D. Currie and L.L Burkitt). Occasional Report No. 28. Fertilizer and Lime Research Centre, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand”, 2015.