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Danion O'Connor - Sustainable Farming Fund.

This Landwise project Minimum Tillage, Optimum Water, Maximum Productivity Crops was in the first group of projects funded through the Sustainable Farming Fund. In many ways, it is a flagship project for the fund.

I’m told the project work programme builds upon work completed earlier including the AGMARDT funded and Landwise led Minimum Tillage of Process Corn and Irrigation Efficiency Audit and Malvern Landcare’s Irrigation Manual. The work programme draws heavily on strong science to ensure that project results are robust and defensible.

The Government sees this project and the others funded by the Sustainable Farming Fund as an important part of our drive to see New Zealand become more innovative, developing new and more efficient and effective ways of doing things.

Last year, the Prime Minister launched the Growth and Innovation strategy, focussing on three sectors which had the potential to affect all aspects of our lives what the policy wonks call “horizontal technologies.

These were: information and communication technology, arts and creative industries, and biotechnology.

The Growth through Innovation framework documents a broad consensus that has emerged over the past two years as to what needs to be done to develop New Zealand’s innovative potential.

To do that, the Government is committing to implementing policies with more emphasis on:

· Enhancing our innovation framework;

· Developing our skills and talents;

· Increasing our global connectedness; and

· Focusing interventions in those areas that can have maximum impact.

The Government has chosen to target its innovation initiatives initially in biotechnology, ICT and the creative industries. These are all areas which, if they attain their growth potential, can have a significant influence on the broad scope of the New Zealand economy.

Obviously, these three sectors are not the only sectors we want to see innovation and growth in. For our country, and our economy, to achieve the way we want it to, innovation must happen across the board.

ICT, biotechnology, and the creative industries are not about to displace dairy, meat, and tourism as the main agents of our economy. But they are three sectors of enabling technologies that are going to drive change in those sectors and many others to help New Zealand lift its performance. The role of rural people and agribusiness in doing that is critical.

Agriculture’s rate of productivity increase has exceeded that of many manufacturing and servicing sectors in recent years, and the primary production sector is well positioned to capitalise on the increasing emphasis on biotechnology.

Biotechnology could have huge benefits for agriculture and horticulture … sectors which we are world leaders in and in which we wish to maintain our leading edge. Biotechnology will be a key driver of accelerating productivity growth in agriculture, and will also give rise to new businesses, industries, and technologies that spin off from our sector.

The Government has worked hard during the past parliamentary term to investigate the best ways to build partnerships and capacity, and has invested in regional development to make sure that all citizens have access to both training so that they can develop new skills and to new technology so they can adapt that to lift their productivity and living standards.

Innovation in rural communities is also being promoted through the Sustainable Farming Fund, a scheme set up months after Labour became Government.

The fund allocates grants to community-supported projects that improve the social, environmental, and economic sustainability of rural communities. We’ve seen some exciting results – such as the one we are celebrating today - and there are many more to come.

There have been 184 projects funded since it began. That’s 184 communities who have been able to advance their economic, social, and environmental sustainability through research co-funded with the Government.

They have resulted in practical help for farmers, growers, and other producers such as yourselves. The fund’s worth has been shown through the allocation of a further $10.6 million a year for the next three years in next week’s Budget. This should ensure its continuation long into the future.

For this project, grant funding of $298,285 has been provided by the Government over three financial years to contribute to a work programme budgeted at some $560,000.

As I said before, this Landwise project is a flagship project for the Sustainable Farming Fund.

The fund is designed on a philosophy of partnerships. The project demonstrates just how effective partnerships can, and should be:

The Landwise Steering Committee provides overall direction and leadership to Landwise as an organization and to the current SFF work programme the Steering Committee involves a partnership between farmers, scientists and local government

Farmer members provide leadership through directing work to tackle key production and environmental issues the concepts of science in the field and farmers as scientists is well demonstrated

Farmer members are innovators in adapting methods and machinery to counter problems encountered along the way

Science providers, particularly Crop and Food and Landcare provide rigour to the projects trial work

The Hawkes Bay Regional Council provides active support to both project work and administration and support.

A range of other individuals and rural professionals provide input and support.

The Landwise Facilitator, Lesley Wilson, and Project Manager, Dan Bloomer, have been very successful in drawing the strands of the partnership together.

The trial work that has been put in place, and refined season-to-season, is robust, practical and targeted. The communication of results into the community has been strong and effective the mix of well-presented newsletters, the web site, field walks, and bus trips has been very effective in ensuring that results are disseminated and applied.

The 2002 Landwise Conference was a significant achievement with a large attendance from both Hawkes Bay and beyond the concept of farmer scientists presenting to farmers was well demonstrated. This year’s event should be similarly effective. I’m told this is one of the best projects for demonstrating involvement at all levels - from the community, farmers, scientists, local government, and so on.

They say imitation is the purest form of flattery, and to me, it is a demonstration of this project’s success that other community groups and local councils are looking at running similar projects. No doubt, there will be more applications to the Sustainable Farming Fund!

I am delighted to be here today to participate

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