West coast farmers were winners at the annual Auckland Ballance Farm Environment Awards announced on June 21, with two Kaipara properties winning four categories.
Leading the charge were family farmers from Glorit, Shane and Jenny Hood and Kevin and Gill Adshead, who won three awards for their soil management, livestock and business management, while Auckland Council’s Atiu Creek Regional Park took out the people in primary sector award.
The Hoods lease farmland from Kevin and Gill, Jenny’s parents, at Mataia Homestead, where they farm sheep and beef and run a hospitality and tourism business. Much of the rest of the property is devoted to the Mataia ecological restoration project, started by Kevin and Gill in 2006 to bring back native wildlife and plants to the area. Working alongside volunteers, the family has planted more than 7,500 trees every year and carries out extensive trapping to control pests and predators.
The restoration work led to the successful introduction of North Island brown kiwi that are now breeding on the property, as well as the creation of Forest Bridge Trust, a project to create a connected landscape of native bush and wildlife from coast to coast.
Shane and Jenny have been farming full-time for the past 10 years and during that time have transitioned their section of Mataia from a breeding farm to a finishing and trading farm. Kilometres of subdivision fencing have been installed to improve grazing practices, and stock water and handling facilities have been upgraded.
Judges commended the whole family for excellent soil management on challenging soils, excellent protection of waterways, enabling conservation through having a diverse business income and having a thriving farm with a well-advanced succession plan. They also recognised that they were well respected within the wider catchment and farming community.
The team at Atiu Creek was commended for success in managing to strike a balance between farming, conservation and recreation, while showcasing the property to the public. Around 300 hectares of the 840 hectare park is devoted to farming sheep, beef and wool, plus accommodation. The team runs 1,250 breeding ewes, weaning 1,600 lambs annually, while 85 cows produce about 80 calves each year, which are also weaned.
Award judges praised Auckland Council for offering a broad range of development and training opportunities to farm staff and having systems in place for a great work-life balance. They added that staff wellbeing was well considered and catered for and, as a result, employees were happy and there was a good staff retention rate.