Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Urban and rural businesses team up to understand each other better

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Project aims to foster sense of shared responsibility between groups.
Dana Carver is hopeful that sharing the load will help farmers come on board with environmental change.
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By Delwyn Dickey for Our Land and Water

With a stream of environmental regulation coming at farmers, it’s not surprising some are feeling that “townies” are judging them and their farming practices.

A project being led by Dana Carver, a Wellington researcher with business management consultants Scarlatti, with funding through Our Land and Water, aims to bring rural business owners together with urban business counterparts, so both can appreciate the different challenges they face in their efforts to make their business more sustainable, and help each other achieve results. 

Questions for the researchers are whether this may also help farmers feel less isolated and feel like environmental responsibility is more shared, and that the social licence to operate covers all businesses.

It’s hoped a template can be produced for others wanting to go down the same path for this shared responsibility approach between rural and urban dwellers.

Carver said the project is off to an enthusiastic start, with eight very different businesses involved from several different regions.

An orchard and a bull production farm in Northland, and a dairy farm and sheep and beef farm in Dannevirke make up the country contingent. A childcare business in Wellington, civil construction company in Paraparaumu, internet service provider on the Kāpiti Coast, and the New Zealand Young Farmers organisation based in Christchurch provide the urban element.

Giving the group space to decide what they want to achieve and how to do that is leading to some surprising outcomes, said Carver. 

Sustainability must include the culture within a business, and should be broader than just greenhouse gas emissions, including waste management, the group has decided.

Site visits to each farm and urban business are also planned. 

Flights will be kept to a minimum to reduce travel emissions, with a rental van to be used instead of multiple cars, including on the drive from Wellington to Northland. 

One of the most interesting changes, said Carver, is a strong move away from box-ticking to meet environmental legislation, to a more nurturing and reciprocal relationship with the land – considering what the land needs from a business to thrive. 

There is a second group made up of catchment groups and businesses, but this isn’t as far along yet. 

Running for around nine months, the project should wind up in September.

Find out more about the Urban-Rural Partnerships for Equal Change project.

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