Environment Canterbury’s newest independent Councillor, Megan Hands, has been officially sworn in.

The NZ Young Farmers member ran as an independent candidate in the Christchurch West ward for the City, topping voting by close to 3,000 votes.

At just 29 years old, the new mum says she’s excited to continue the great work around water quality and biodiversity that has already been done.

“I believe that environmental sustainability and economic sustainability can and must go hand in hand and that farmers within Canterbury are absolutely committed to improving water quality, but at the same time those steps need to be pragmatic,” Megan says.

This has been the first ECan election in a decade, with 14 councillors elected, eight in the city and six rural candidates.

Megan had just given birth to her first child in July, before heading into the election campaign while also trying to navigate running her own business.

“You can probably call me a little bit crazy,” she laughs.

“It has been pretty hard work but at the same time I’ve had really great support from friends and family and my fiancé Simon as well.”

Her love for the land started as a child, growing up on dairy farms across the North Island as her parents sharemilked their way to farm ownership.

Her passion for the environment and making a difference was sparked at a young age, after their water supply and neighbouring farms was threatened through a resource consent being granted to a nearby property.

She then went on to study a Bachelor of Environmental Planning with Farm Management at Lincoln University and embark on a career in resource management and environmental consulting.

“I’ve always been at that interface of farmer and regional council grappling with onfarm sustainability and water quality and navigating the regulatory tools that are in place.”

As a Councillor, she says she wants to ensure agricultural challenges are tackled in a way that is outcome and solution focused, with achievable and practical steps in place.

“I think that ultimately we can achieve our goals around improving water quality, in particular if we all work together on it. It will take time but I am absolutely committed to ensuring that we do make those improvements.”

“The environment is what sustains us and we’ve got to look after it in order to prosper, whether that be for our own health and wellbeing or for our own economic growth or wealth.”

It’s not a single issue that farmers are facing, she says, but rather a cumulative impact of many challenges coming at once, particularly in the regulatory space.

“Market conditions, state of their companies, water quality and climate change all of those things are massive challenges but they also present massive opportunities.”

“The outcomes that we’re trying to achieve are our common goals, so if we focus on outcomes and work together towards that it all becomes a little bit less scary. It’s about taking one step at a time.”

Megan has been involved with New Zealand Young Farmers since the age of 15.

She has held a number of leadership positions within the organisation including Chair, Regional Vice Chair and has competed in a number of regional finals.

She says being involved with Young Farmers has been a big part of her journey.

“The personal development I’ve had within Young Farmers has put me in good stead to lead in this space,” she says.

“I think Young Farmers has always and will always be a great place for young rural people and rural professionals to develop those skills”.

NZ Young Farmers Chief Executive Lynda Coppersmith says it’s amazing to see members at the forefront of environmental sustainability in the rural sector.

“It’s the heart of everything we do, so to see Megan following her passion and taking that to a representative level to help and support other farmers is so inspiring.”

“Our young people have the ability and opportunities to keep leading the way in the environmental space and I know they will keep doing just that.”