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ESAI reflects on big leaps during AGM

Ellesmere Sustainable Agriculture Inc (ESAI) will be reflecting on an incredible year of progress and achievements at its Annual General Meeting on August 4.

ESAI, and its predecessors, has been supporting, connecting, educating and advocating for Ellesmere farmers for over 20 years, but chairperson Tim Chamberlain says the past year will be remembered as a quantum leap for the district and its farmers.

“The past year, we have been able to make significant strides towards our mission of creating more sustainable farming practices and improving the quality of our waterways,” says Chamberlain, who explains that the new flagship project, Tinaku, has enabled ESAI to take its activities to another level.

“The funding we received from the Ministry of Primary Industries for Project Tinaku has enabled us to ramp up dozens of exciting regeneration projects by many local farmers to improve waterways and create local employment and local educational opportunities along the way,” says the chairperson.

Contractors removing willows at Jollies Brook to be replaced by native plants.

Along with 17 completed and 32 new projects that are about to kick off next month, ESAI has created new branding and communication tools to share the knowledge with its members and the wider community, including  a comprehensive new website.

“We want to expand the reach of our work, so we want to invite any farmers who are not part of ESAI to have a look at our website and come along to our AGM to find out how we can support them.”

On top of its planting activities, ESAI continues its core objective of advocating for its members with local and central Government agencies on irrigation and other compliance issues that affect their members.

ESAI has submitted on the Selwyn District Plan and Long Term Plan, Environment Canterbury’s Long Term Plan, as has appeared at meetings with staff at Selwyn Council, ECan and MPI.

“We are also proud that ESAI’s reputation as a major farmer-led stakeholder group has grown to a point where now also have regular exchanges with central Government agencies like MPI who are keen to hear our views,” says Chamberlain, who adds that the group also maintains strong relationships with the local runañga, primary industry groups, political parties and other networks.

ESAI also continues to offer its members a host of training opportunities to increase their knowledge and skills, including courses on irrigation efficiency, health and safety and workshops by the Te Taumutu runañga.

Ellesmere College and local primary school children during a planting day on Rakaia Island.

Chamberlain says the increased demands on ESAI requires its leadership to keep up with best-practice governance, and the group regularly attends training courses and workshops to increase its governance and management skills.

The AGM will provide updates by the Governance Group and staff members, but will also host local fisherman Mike Pullan as guest speaker to talk about his exploits on Te Waihora Lake Ellesmere to underline the importance of ESAI’s restoration work.

“It will fascinating for our members to hear from someone like Mike who is directly affected by the quality of the water and the waterways feeding into Lake Ellesmere,” says Chamberlain.

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