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An Environmental Management System (EMS) for King Island farm businesses has been developed and is ready for rollout.
The system is the result of the King Island EMS Pilot Project, which commenced in July 2003, funded through the Natural Heritage Trust.
20 King Island businesses were involved during the four year project.
The major processors on the island were approached to be part of developing an EMS along the island supply chain. Processors National Foods (King Island Dairy) and Tasman Group Services (King Island Meats) chose not to implement an EMS, but to maintain existing overall risk management methodologies.
King Island Kelp Industries and one farm business chose to implement ISO 14001, an international standard for environmental management.
The majority of farm businesses saw no perceived benefit in pursuing the ISO certification so a new less formalised system was developed that included key elements of ISO 14001, such as the risk assessment, combined with components of whole farm planning.
If in the future there were to be a market incentive, the EMS developed would be easily adapted.
This decision was supported by market research, which indicated that using ISO 14001 to explain environmental management at the farm level provided limited leverage and in fact King Island already leverages 'green, clean and natural' attributes in the market place.
Based on this, a key recommendation of this work was simply for King Island to embrace proactive management of the environment as a means of safeguarding market position.
A major focus of the EMS project has been the development of King Island environmental performance benchmarks and monitoring parameters.
Existing environmental data relating to King Island such as soils / land capability data mapping, groundwater / salinity mapping, compilation of flora & fauna on King Island, grazing trials and general information was gathered. This data combined with the land management experience of the participants assisted in the development of the benchmarks and monitoring parameters. Benchmarks for the key asset areas of biodiversity, land, water and fire management have been developed. The benchmarks form part of the risk assessment component of the EMS, with individuals completing a gap analysis on their property.
An accredited auditor was asked to test the robustness King Island EMS. Each farm undertook an audit, which looked at environmental policy and objectives, farm mapping, environmental benchmarking, risk assessment, 12 month action plan, register of records & documents and register of monitoring activities.
An additional benefit of the project is that eight King Islanders were trained in undertaking TAS VEG quality assessments of remnant vegetation. The group members found that involvement in the EMS process was very constructive and are keen to continue the discussion.
Ongoing projects for the group in the near future are contribution to an island-wide water monitoring program and organizing an Integrated Pest Management information day.