WIL farmer shareholders being interviewed

Understanding the proposed Plan Change 7

Convergence has provided communications and public relations services to Waimakariri Irrigation Limited (WIL) for close to ten years. Our work involves resource consent communications, media relations, farmer and community engagement, and issues management. We have helped WIL through several challenging consent processes and worked with the company to devise its key messaging, planning and policy as the ‘social climate’ around irrigation has shifted.

Our most recent work involved preparing a comprehensive communications and engagement strategy about the impact Environment Canterbury’s proposed Plan Change 7 to the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan will have on WIL’s 200 farmer shareholders. The proposals in Plan Change 7 seek to limit nutrient discharges from farms progressively over a number of decades, based on new modelling that focuses on the possibility of nitrates entering groundwater under Christchurch city, from which the city water is drawn. Our work included preparing material for farmer shareholders to summarise the proposed plan change and to encourage them to make submissions. We also prepared briefing papers for key stakeholders, worked with the technical team and implemented a media relations strategy.

Convergence was very keen to start a conversation in the urban media about the good environmental work many WIL farmers are already undertaking. We invited The Press’s environment reporter to one of WIL’s shareholders’ farms to meet five WIL shareholder farmers to talk about the impact the proposed Plan Change 7 would have on their farming operation. They also talked about their on farm investment in effluent and irrigation infrastructure upgrades and new technology such as flowmeters, weather stations and soil moisture probes to ensure efficient water use – applying precisely the right amount of water, at the right time.

Two stories about this were published, one appeared in The Press and a more detailed story was published online on Stuff.