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  • Rights: The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato and Waikato Regional Council
    Published 12 March 2020 Referencing Hub media

    Sandra and Rod McKinnon are dairy farmers in the Waikato region. They explain steps they’ve taken to make their farm more sustainable.

    Question for discussion

    • Why do you think Rod has geofenced wetlands, riparian areas, the stream and the drains as out of bounds areas?



    We’ve farmed at this place here probably for about 26 years. So we’ve had that luxury of being able to make improvements on something that we’ve stayed on for a long period of time rather than shifting around. We chose to stay here. We wanted to put all our energies into one good farm that we could be creative and passionate about how we were presenting our land. It goes without saying that it has to be sustainable and that we have to look after the land, and farmers need to have, you know, an increased awareness of that, which many of them do already.

    We produce food, and people want to know where their food came from. They want to know that it came from good conditions, they want to know that it is hygienic, they want to know that it is safe, that it’s not filled with toxins or anything else. And that’s how we market our milk and our dairy products in New Zealand, across the world stage.


    For us, it was about having real peace of mind about what we were doing, and for me, it was just about doing the right thing to make sure that we weren’t putting nutrients into areas where we shouldn’t be putting them and protecting that environment that we have. We’ve geofenced the whole farm, so our irrigator works on a GPS system and all of our wetlands that we’ve planted, all of the riparian, the drains, the stream that runs through the farm, they’re all geofenced out of boundary for the farm.

    We’ve retired about 25 hectares of the farm, so a little bit over 10%. And really, it’s had no real effect on us economically. The areas retiring are swampland or riparian around the river. A little here, a little there is not doing anything, and that’s a compliance issue now anyway, although we’d done it well before that time. And the other areas of bush that we’ve retired became naturally places that looked like they needed to have plants put on them rather than cows.

    We’ve found that the quality of the water in the Mangawhio Stream that runs through the farm has actually improved over the last 5 years that we’ve been testing. So that’s really encouraging for us to see that the work we’re doing actually has some positive results on the river and the water quality that we’ve got.


    The return of wildlife – tūīs, we have the tūīs round the house, we have the tūīs on the farm. Bees coming back I think as well. And the stream itself has always been quite clean but we’re seeing now more of the fish swimming around there. Frogs, you know – the general wildlife returning to the area. And the farm looks better. When your toetoe is blooming and when your mānuka is flowering, you know, it’s a beautiful place to be in.

    Sandra and Rod McKinnon
    Drone footage of McKinnon’s farm and shots of effluent spreader filmed by AF Productions and Paul Sutherland Photography. Copyright Yardmaster


    This video has been developed in partnership with the Waikato Regional Council as part of the Rivers and Us resource.

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