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Ellesmere farmers celebrate success at AGM

Ellesmere Sustainable Agriculture Inc (ESAI) expect a big turnout of local farmers at its Annual General Meeting to share and celebrate the huge successes ESAI and its flagship Project Tinaku have achieved over the past year.

Chairman Tim Chamberlain says that ESAI and Tinaku have gone from strength to strength and has developed from a modest catchment group to an influential farmers collective that is making an impact far beyond the district’s boundaries.

“We have always been an ambitious group with a strong vision, but even in our wildest dreams, we could not have expected how many people would benefit from our work in just a few years,” says Chamberlain, who will be hosting the group’s AGM on August 8th at the Lakeside Soldiers Memorial Hall.

Project Tinaku is in its third year and thanks to funding from the Ministry of Primary Industries’ Jobs for Nature programme has made huge strides across the Ellesmere area, increasing biodiversity, enhancing the natural environment, upskilling and supporting farmers, educating young people and providing employment to locals.

In the past year, the Tinaku project has provided primary and secondary employment for over 35 people. Employment has occurred directly through staff working on the project, as well as local contractors that have been employed to carry out restoration work, fencing and weed control.

Reuben Hunt working with Department of Conservation staff on a DOC Lakeside project.

Over the past year ESAI have also increased its footprint in local schools, with Tinaku increasing its sponsorship of Ellesmere College students, from six to 10 students, to gain expertise and knowledge to pursue employment in the agriculture sector through the Gateways Programme.

“What has been really amazing is to see many of the Gateway students finding work with ESAI members and other rural businesses in the area, which fulfills both our education and employment objectives,” says Chamberlain.

At primary school level, the project has been partnering with Te Ara Kakariki to run Kids Discovery Plant out Days and biodiversity monitoring field trips with both Southbridge School and Leeston Consolidated School.

Brittany talking with students about the proposed Irwell River project and getting their ideas.

These planting trips have been a wonderful addition to the extensive restoration projects Tinaku has been working on the past two years, with nearly 25,000 natives planted across 39 sites on 25 members farms in 2021 alone. These projects cover around 5ha of land along nearly 7km of waterways.

Project Tinaku has also initiated comprehensive monthly water quality monitoring at 10 sites along 3 streams in the area, which will be invaluable to measure the impact of the planting projects on the water quality.

ESAI this year received additional funding to carry out an extensive survey among its members to better understand their individual situations and uncover common threads and trends among its members.

“The results from the survey have been incredibly revealing and helpful for us to inform our future direction and I really encourage our members to come to the AGM and hear the findings of those surveys,” says Chamberlain.

The survey identified where its members wanted to improve their skills and knowledge, and as a result Tinaku organised 13 events which included topics like financial advice & succession planning, GHG and He Waka Eke Noa, Chainsaw safety and working at heights, workplace first aid and mental health and well-being in rural communities.

“These events have been attended by over 300 ESAI members and others in the community, and the feedback is showing that we are getting better at hitting the mark with each new event, so we encourage our members to take advantage of all these opportunities.”

The AGM will be held at Lakeside Soldiers Memorial Hall in Leeston, on Monday August 8th, from 7pm.

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