15 February 2019
Rick and Rose Powdrell are the third generation of Powdrells to run their 446 hectare drystock farm near Te Puke. The mainstay of Emerald Hills are 2,700 high performance Romney sheep, plus 400 dairy grazers and 200 beef cattle.
Over the last thirty years Rick and Rose have tackled numerous environmental challenges. They have partnered with Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Beef + Lamb NZ, starting with a Soil and Water Conservation Plan in the 1990s. More recent Riparian Management and Farm Environment Plans have helped guide their environmental work.
Initial projects included fencing waterways, designating erosion prone areas as sheep only, planting 8 ha of steeper land into pines and experimenting with weevils to control nodding thistle. Rick’s interest in biological controls began after he became ill from using chemical sprays in the 1980s. “This experience made me very careful using chemicals. It also made me consider what chemicals can do to the soil and pasture organisms that you want to protect,” says Rick.
And after a 30 year search, Rick has finally found the right insects to control his nodding thistle. The gall fly and receptacle weevil are now successfully doing their job.
Land Use Capability mapping has helped identify land suitable for conservation. Today 70 hectares are fenced off and retired. A poplar planting programme continues to help stabilise erosion prone areas. Two new detention dams help prevent silt run off. Native bush is regenerating alongside new native plantings, including 2,400 new manuka seedlings planted last year. There are many tui and kereru around the farm. Rick looks forward to the day when kokako return to the area.
For the past three years, Emerald Hills was a Beef + Lamb NZ Environmental Focus Farm, highlighting on-farm environmental work and encouraging other farmers to learn from their experiences. One key action was the installation of troughs across 90% of the farm, replacing the old spring-fed dams. The Focus Farm project also prompted the establishment of a sub-catchment hub, involving around 20 farmers in the Powdrell’s vicinity. “The big thing we’ve identified in this area is water run-off and the sediment it carries. We need to look at how we can control these issues as a catchment.”
Rick and Rose’s children are actively involved in the future of the family business, with their grandchildren now enjoying what Emerald Hills has become.
Bayleys People in Primary Sector Award
Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award
Treeline Native Nursery Farm Stewardship Award