Friday, 13 March 2020 10:37

Central region aiming to be the Agrihub of NZ

Written by  Peter Burke
Manawatu District mayor Helen Worboys. Manawatu District mayor Helen Worboys.

Manawatu District Council Mayor, Helen Worboys says the district is very proud to host the Central Districts Field Days because the region sees itself as the agritech hub of NZ.

She says for the last 20 or so years the district has made a deliberate drive to promote agritech both within NZ and also overseas. Worboys reckons, Fielding – where the event is staged – has gone from being a town that was servicing the primary sector to one that is encouraging companies in the agribusiness, innovation and technology areas to locate there.

“We are seeing the results of that with businesses such as Rabobank, FMG Insurance, tractor companies and others offering support to the rural sector relocating here. This is a huge shift and one that is very exciting for us,” she told Rural News.

Worboys says Fielding has the advantage of being centrally located with a good airport at Palmerston North. She says it’s only a couple of hours away from Wellington, Taupo and Hawkes Bay and is a genuine hub for the agribusiness sector.

She reckons the CD field days is a great place to go and meet up with the local community and support local businesses and she will be out there doing this. 

“The one thing we are keen to support and promote is the Agritech Strategy, which was launched last year by the Economic Development Agency – which services both Palmerston North city and Manawatu District,” Worboys explains. 

“We have seen the development of an innovation lab in the district. This is run by some very smart, young farmers who are doing amazing things with technology and looking at new ways to farm in the future.” 

Worboys and her husband are sheep and beef farmers in the district. However, she says the drier than normal conditions being experienced at present are not easy for farmers. She acknowledges that as farmers they plan for a summer dry. However, she says this year things are particularly bad.

“We had a really good spring with lots of grass and we were able to put aside a lot of dry feed, but we are feeding that out now. 

I guess the dilemma is what will happen when the rain does come and how cold the winter will be. 

“Right now, it is certainly tough for farmers, especially in our dairying community. Banks are not lending like they used to, and they are being a bit more cautious – especially to our dairy farmers.” 

Worboys believes the situation is being made harder for farmers with all the new legislation that is being thrown at them from central government. She says this is pretty scary and stressful

“It’s all this national policy statement stuff and the other things and the deadlines we are faced with,” she told Rural News

“We don’t get the resources to deal with these things like the biodiversity plan that has just come out. It is going to be very hard to deal with all these matters in the time frames that have been set. It’s hard enough for local government and I can only imagine how farmers feel,” she adds.

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