Rotorua farmers encouraged to get into agri-tourism

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Rotorua’s booming tourism industry could provide a way to farm less intensively while generating additional income streams for farmers.

Landowners in the Lake Rotorua Catchment could be eligible to receive funding from the Low Nitrogen Land Use Fund (LNLUF) to trial new ventures like farm tourism on the land, with expressions of interest closing in late September, says Rotorua Lakes Council and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council in a statement.

The fund’s purpose is to set-up small and large-scale trials of alternative income streams.

The goal is to provide working information to other landowners in the catchment so they can make informed decisions to reduce stock numbers, farm less intensively while still producing the same level income.

The fund is part of a larger programme to reduce nitrogen inputs on land to improve Lake Rotorua water quality.

This is the second time the LNLUF has been available. The first round of funding in 2016 funded the Rotorua Land Use Directory.

The directory provides information on nineteen alternative land uses that farmers could consider. Examples include poultry egg farming, lavender, hazelnuts, ginseng and goats.

The guide provides high level information on markets, production, infrastructure and returns for each land use.

Agri-tourism is a growing industry worldwide.

Farmers and landowners are recognising the benefits of creating new income streams on their land, which can help them decrease their environmental impact as well as spread the risk of volatile agricultural markets.

Examples include farm-stay accommodation, farm tours or hiring out areas for weddings and other events.

In the Rotorua district, there are not many farm stay options currently, allowing considerable room for growth in the market.

Options could as simple as listing spare rooms in the home with online accommodation booking sites, through to setting up separate accommodation areas or tourism tours on the land.

Hamish Hodgson’s family, which owns a dairy farm in the Lake Rotorua Catchment. was one of those planning to apply for funding to help set up a unique farm stay accommodation with a focus on

Hodgson said the native bush area on the farm was the ideal location for accommodation.

“We want to start small and over time build it up so that it ultimately becomes one of our main sources of income,” he said. “As the income from the tourism business grows, we will be able to reduce our dairy operation.”

Hodgson said the idea grew from showing overseas friends around the farm and seeing how much they got out of it and how fascinating it was to them.

“When they asked if they could camp out in the middle of the winter, it planted a seed in my mind.”

“So far we have done a lot of work and research into what we want to do and talked to the Regional Council. We plan to create a tourist offering that Rotorua doesn’t currently have.”

“Our vision is people can come and stay in comfortable, private lodgings that blend into the landscape. We want to offer a whole experience. Our environmental footprint is at the centre of our thinking and design.”

Hodgson said the set-up costs for the proposed endeavour were significant and the return unknown.

“If our application to the Low Nitrogen Land Use Fund is successful, it will help us get started. We will be able to share our experience and data as a working case study for other land owners in the catchment.”

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