Rural women at the forefront of caring for our environment

Rural Women New Zealand
Alex Eagles-Tully

 ‘Our Women, Our Land, Our Water’ was the title of a symposium organised, by Rural Women New Zealand in the Western Bay of Plenty, for International Day of Rural Women 2021.

The symposium held in Tauranga on October 15 focused on the current environmental issues facing our rural sector.

International Day of Rural Women is a relatively recent United Nations initiative created to recognise that women are integral in the protection of natural resources and the implementation of sustainable agriculture. Traditionally the primary industries have been an area where males made all of the decisions.

Today, with one in three women around the world involved in the rural sector, the role of women in instigating positive environmental change is evident.

Rural Women New Zealand Region 5 (Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, Central Plateau and East Cape to Gisborne) hosted a series of short presentations from a range of knowledgeable women, including Bay of Plenty Regional Councillor Paula Thompson and Bay Conservation Alliance Education Officer Janie Stevenson.

The Hon Jan Tinetti opened the IDRW event outlining what the Ministry for Women is doing to support rural women in Aotearoa.

Following this Janie Stevenson, who was until recently the New Zealand Landcare Trust regional coordinator, highlighted rural priorities regarding environmental issues for the region, the vital role of community care groups and the importance of keeping the people of Aotearoa engaged in environmental care.

Paula Thompson, who is currently chair of the BOPRC Strategy and Policy Committee, discussed the principal role of the Regional Council in ensuring the sustainable management of the regions natural resources. She also addressed the ‘hailstorm’ of environmental reform that continues to roll out from government. In particular, she talked about the implementation of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, which requires regional councils to improve the quality of waterways and ensure that water is allocated more efficiently. Finally, she touched on the importance of community caretaking-kaitiakitanga in the changing environment.

Kaharoa dairy farmer and a longstanding member of RWNZ Chris Paterson was the final but most poignant speaker of the day. Chris spoke from the heart about the personal journey she, and husband Jamie, had been on with the dairy farming sector of New Zealand, from the golden years to the worldwide realisation that things could not continue as they were. Chris has been the secretary of the Rotorua Farmers Collective since 2013 - a group formed to reduce the impact of farming on the water quality of the Rotorua lakes. Chris provided a rural woman's view on current and future farming sustainability ending with a fascinating summary of some of the incredible innovations appearing to help this cause.

You can view videos of the individual talks by visiting RWNZTAURANGA on Facebook.


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