Five keys to engaging farmers in environmental change: Part 2

The iconic Rere Falls and Rockslide near Gisborne have been the focus of a two-year environmental project. This five-part series takes a closer look at the key points identified as being vital for this project’s success – points that are relevant to similar projects around New Zealand.
Wednesday, 23 August 2017

#2: It’s all about relationships

The dynamics between the groups – and especially the individuals involved – is critical.

B+LNZ Extension Manager Mark Harris has a saying: “It’s better to engage, than enrage.”

It applies to all parties and highlights that success is more likely to come from a collaborative approach, than an adversarial one.

“In the case of Rere, we agreed on common goals as the project developed, had open communication, were prepared to challenge constructively, and used each other’s strengths well.

“As issues were presented, there was a willingness to explore solutions that look forward – definitely no blaming the past.” 

Social researcher Rachael Trotman agrees. “Taking the time to build relationships with people on the ground sets a project up for success.”

She believes councils are ideally positioned to bring in the right individuals and groups. “Resources allowing, they can work quietly in the background – building relationships between industry, farmers, environmental groups and iwi.”

Rachael says B+LNZ’s presence plays an important role. “They’re there representing farmers, which means farmers are more likely to trust them.

“Having industry involvement and groups that represent farmers in the mix is really important. It gives legitimacy to what is being done and farmers the confidence that their views are important and are being heard.”

Rachael suggests engaging farmers who are most impacted by the project and those with strong mana in the community. “If respected local farmers get involved, that encourages others to participate.”