When he’s at work, Stuart Griffin always has the Gippsland Lakes on his mind — but he’s not just dreaming of a weekend relaxing on the iconic waterways.
Mr Griffin is constantly monitoring every decision he makes on his dairy farm north of Moe to ensure he is doing the right thing for the downstream environment.
With the Moe River running though his Westbury property, the fourth generation farmer knows every drop that leaves the historic family farm will have an impact on the Lakes system.
It’s a responsibility he takes seriously — and not just because he and his family love the Lakes themselves.
‘‘We spend time down towards the Gippsland Lakes every year and it’s a beautiful part of the world,’’ Mr Griffin said.
‘‘It’s extremely popular and important economically from both a tourism and fishing point of view.
‘‘We wouldn’t want anyone putting anything in the water upstream from us, so why should we be sending our potential problems down to them?’’
Dairy farms cycle large amounts of nutrient that, if released into waterways, can cause problems for the aquatic environment.
The modern dairy farmer is well aware of these potential issues and works hard to keep nutrients on-farm where they can be utilised as valuable fertiliser.
‘‘It benefits us because there’s no point in putting nutrients down the drain. And we know that those nutrients can have an impact on the lakes and waterways downstream,’’ Mr Griffin said.
‘‘We need to do not only what’s right for us, but make sure we’re doing the right thing by everyone.’’
Two concrete examples of the work that has been done on the Griffin farm are an expanded effluent pond at the dairy shed and an underpass pumping system, both of which collect waste effluent and distribute it back to paddocks before it has a chance to escape into waterways.
Projects such as these are both time-consuming and expensive, so farmers like Mr Griffin have been involved in programs including Core 4, which was an Australian Government funded program managed by West Gippsland CMA, designed to assist farmers in the upper regions of the Gippsland Lakes catchment to undertake action that would reduce the risk of nutrients leaving the farm.
‘‘What the Core 4 program allowed us to do was invest in some infrastructure projects to better manage our effluent around the dairy and underpass, which had a number of benefits to us,’’ Mr Griffin said.
‘‘It made it easier for us to be compliant and even ahead of the regulations and saved us time and headaches.’’
Southern Rural Water, West Gippsland CMA, GippsDairy, Dairy Australia and the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources all work together to offer support for environmental improvements by dairy farmers.
Tony Platt from GippsDairy said dairy farmers should be applauded for taking the initiative in protecting the Lakes environment.
‘‘The bottom line is, these farmers use the Lakes, they live in the community and they want to do the right thing by everybody,’’ Mr Griffin said.
‘‘With the assistance of support agencies, there have been huge improvements in how dairy farms interact with the environment and look after waterways.’’
For Mr Griffin, protecting the environment is just part of the job description for a dairy farmer working in the Lakes catchment.
‘‘We need to be able to justify what we do, so we can have that social licence to farm,’’ he said.
‘‘We need the wider community to understand what we do and why we do it … if we want to continue to farm we need to take the wider community with us.’’
For more farmers’ stories from the Gippsland Lakes catchment, go to www.loveourlakes.net.au/living-here/farming/snapshot/