Despite the interruptions of COVID-19, the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust is delighted to confirm that the 2021/2022 Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) will proceed as planned throughout the country, including the new Catchment Group Award.
Even with the disruptions caused by the changes to alert levels in Auckland, Northland and Waikato the awards have received a pleasing number of entrants across the country allowing the programme to continue albeit with some adjustments to ensure the safety of all involved. “Our regional committees have worked hard with the farmers and growers in their communities to ensure a worthwhile and rewarding programme can be completed,” said Joanne van Polanen, Chair of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust. “It is more important than ever that the great initiatives and work being done by farmers and growers is being celebrated and shared with others.”
The BFEA programme has been slightly adapted to make it safer and less onerous for entrants given the current COVID-19 situation. This includes the requirement for all judges and entrants to be vaccinated and one round of judging being used to complete the full judging process, thus limiting the amount of contact between entrants and the judging panels.
“Whilst we have had to change our usual processes in an effort to keep our people and participants safe, we have carefully planned and adapted our usual practices to ensure that judging is still thorough and complete and entrants will still receive the valuable feedback that makes entering the awards so worthwhile,” said van Polanen.
In anticipation of more stringent Government requirements, and in order to help protect BFEA entrants and the judging teams from COVID-19, the NZ Farm Environment Trust are also requiring that all judges and entrants are fully vaccinated. “Whilst we respect that individuals have the right to choose whether or not to be vaccinated, the community nature of our programme including awards functions and field day events means that to align with the Government’s COVID Protection Framework, it is the Trust’s policy that all BFEA entrants are required to be vaccinated,” said van Polanen.
“We hope that entrants will appreciate that this decision is in the best interests of all involved. Through our regional networks, partners, sponsors and entrants across the country, we have a large number of people involved in the awards and we need to ensure we are running a safe programme for all.”
New to the 2021/2022 awards programme is the Catchment Group Award that recognises the efforts of a rural community group working together to improve water quality in local rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands. Whilst entries for the standard awards programme are now closed, the BFEA regional groups continue to work with NZ Landcare Trust to encourage catchment groups to enter this new award, with entries closing at the end of November.