'What it seems to always come down to is water'

Last updated 12:04 20/05/2014

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As I end my time at Federated Farmers, as the provincial president for Waikato, I am proud to say the province has come far in the past three years and I know I am leaving it in good hands.

This will be my last column for Fairfax Media in this role and I would like to thank all the readers, both for and against my waxing lyrical.

Most importantly, thank you to all who have supported me in the agricultural sector.

We have come through some pretty turbulent times together and I couldn't have done this role without your support and input.

Looking back, there has been as many highs as there have been lows.

We have had many small wins collectively as a team at the federation, and that to me is the highlight of my time as provincial president, and what makes the voluntary work on top of running my own dairy farm all worthwhile.

Seeing, and knowing these wins add up to make farmer's lives a little easier is why I cannot simply drop off the face of the earth.

I will be working on the Waikato Waipa Stakeholders Group and continuing the collective conversation around how we get everyone across the finish line with Waikato's water.

From the two droughts that brought us to our knees to record payouts for both dairy and sheep and beef farmers, what it seems to always come down to is water.

The debate is vast, from the amount we are allowed to take, to the quality of it, to the amount falling out of the sky. But what has remained constant in this conversation is that we all want the same thing, a reliable healthy water source that is sustainable both economically and environmentally.

We need to make sure we continue to collaborate with all parties involved in this conversation.

By now farmers have a fair idea about what they need to do to farm within the limits - and while the requirements and methods are still being ironed out by the Government and councils, we can start doing the things on-farm that we are all clear on, and prepare ourselves for the next phase.

In the meantime we will continue to navigate the values of the country and our needs.

I believe we are really starting to make some progress here, but great achievements don't happen over night and this is no truer than with ensuring New Zealand protects, enhances and stores our water.

Waikato was able to secure a fairer water allocation through Variation 6 last year, achieving a better balance between the municipality and the rural community. Consequently we have achieved a more constructive and positive relationship with the local councils.

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What has helped is that over the past three years, Federated Farmers Waikato has changed its direction on how we go about resolving issues for the rural community.

To finish, I would like to thank my wife, Carolyn, and my children, Reuben, Caleb and Bailee for their understanding and support over this period.

To Federated Farmers Waikato, you have been awesome in your support, in particular Gaylene Bamford. Where we are at in Waikato now is because of the combined effort of all of you, you are the life and blood of this organisation.

Finally, the new provincial president for Waikato, Chris Lewis, is an exceptional man and I know he will take to the role like a duck to water.

Chris has served as Federated Farmers Waikato Dairy chairman for the past three years so is well across the challenges we face within the province.

* James Houghton is provincial president for Federated Farmers Waikato.

- Waikato Times

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