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Published: 2008-11-10 00:00:00

Leaders from sectors involved in managing the impact of agriculture on water and soil health in the Waikato are gathering for a summit in Hamilton on Wednesday.

The Waikato Agriculture Summit – called by EW chairman Peter Buckley – follows the recent publication of the regional council’s water and soil report, which looked at the impacts on the environment of the intensification of agriculture.

Those attending the summit at the Glenview Hotel include local government politicians, farming leaders, agricultural industry officials, local and central government staff, finance industry representatives and environmental groups.

Cr Buckley - a dairy farmer and former Waikato Federated Farmers president - said the summit was about searching for the best way to protect the environment whilst supporting the key contribution farming makes to the Waikato economy.

"Protecting the environment properly whilst maintaining a healthy agriculturally based economy is probably the key ongoing challenge we will face for the rest of my lifetime in the Waikato.

"It’s a challenge I am personally determined to help the region to meet - both as a dairy farmer who is committed to rural prosperity, and as someone just as deeply committed to protecting the quality of the environmental bedrock on which our future generations will stand."

Cr Buckley said Environment Waikato’s recent water and soil report spelt out the depth and nature of the problems and opportunities ahead.

"My council doesn’t pretend to have all the answers about the best way to deal with the situation. Our policies in this area are currently under review and we need to ensure they provide for the needs of future generations."

Having the summit meant the council could hear a range of views about the way ahead.

Cr Buckley also hoped the summit would enhance the joint sense of ownership participants had towards best managing the situation.

"I believe we need to collectively and urgently grasp the issues by the scruff of the neck - and act - to maintain the healthy environment and healthy economy that we all want.

"The reality is that entirely legitimate, day-to-day farming operations are impacting on the health of our waterways and the quality of our soils, and that this impact is increasing as agriculture intensifies. Even if everyone adopted environmental best practice now, there would be an ongoing decline in water and soil quality due to intensification.

"We need to find new solutions to get things right and the summit proceedings will help the council to formulate its strategic directions."

Advisory note:

The summit from 10am-4pm will not be open to the media. However, pre-summit queries about the proceedings can be directed to Alan Campbell on 07 859 0873, and EW representatives will be available for comment afterwards.