Len French is a resilient sheep and beef farmer who has embarked on an eight-year journey to implement a fixed grid irrigation system across 130 hectares of his farm.
Despite the challenges of natural disasters like a cyclone, which wiped out 100 hectares of fencing, consent issues, and financial burdens, French remained steadfast. He recounts the hurdles with REX host Dom George, including "dramas and consents and escalating costs," as he works towards his vision of sustainable farming and the importance of water storage for New Zealand's agricultural future.
French discusses the complexities of the irrigation project, including the financial investment and the difficulty of getting the land revalued post-irrigation.
"The evaluations come back at an extra $1.2 million, but only after having spent $4 million to get that one," he says.
This disparity highlights the challenges farmers face when investing in sustainable infrastructure and the need for reform in how water storage is valued and regulated.
He shares his frustrations with local and national regulations, pointing out the "stupidity of the regulations" and advocating for reform.
A key point French emphasises is the need for expertise in project planning, noting that finding competent planners and designers was a significant obstacle.
"One of the biggest problems I had right from the start was finding the expertise to help you through the whole project."
His experience underscores the importance of specialised knowledge in executing complex agricultural projects. The episode highlights the critical role of water storage in ensuring the resilience of New Zealand's farming industry.
It paints a vivid picture of the challenges farmers like French face, from natural disasters to regulatory hurdles, and their commitment to pushing the boundaries of environmental stewardship and agricultural advancement.
Listen to the full chat between Len French and Dominic George above.