22 Apr 2016

The Water of my Land

From Country Life, 9:27 pm on 22 April 2016
Dave Hislop and Sam Mahon.

Dave Hislop and Sam Mahon at Dave's farm. Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

They don't agree about much but at least they're willing to speak up - and front up.

Artist, writer and environmentalist Sam Mahon is meeting with dairy farmer Dave Hislop to discuss their differing views on farming, water issues and the local community in North Canterbury.

Sam, who lives in a renovated flour mill in Waikari, is well known for using politically focused art to draw attention to water pollution issues in the Canterbury Region. For example, in 2009, he made a bust of Environment Minister Nick Smith entirely of cow dung.  It was created as part of a campaign to stop the Hurunui River from being dammed for irrigation.

"When I took Charlie down to the river to go swimming a couple of weeks ago at the reserve, she was standing there waiting for the green sludge to go past, now the Neurotoxins like Cyanobacteria are only there because of increased nitrate levels," he says.

Dave is the majority owner of Medbury farm, a 500 hectare property that borders the Hurunui River. Dave and his family moved to the area from Wairarapa, where he was a sharemilker, eight years ago.  Since then the farming operation has more than doubled in size and currently he's milking 1250 cows.  

"Dairying is positive to the whole community, our farm employed two people before I got here, now there's twenty two so all that money goes through the community, it goes into the schools and the health centre, it makes our area more viable" he says.

Country Life producer Cosmo Kentish-Barnes facilitated the discussion. His plan was to meet on a hilltop with a fine vista of the region but it was raining, a rare event in North Canterbury, so they ended up chatting over a cuppa at Dave's farm.