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Mackenzie Country Station Wins Supreme in 2015 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards

27 May 2015

Mackenzie Country Station Wins Supreme in 2015 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Omarama high-country farmers Richard and Annabelle Subtil are the Supreme Winners of the 2015 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA).

At a BFEA ceremony on March 26, the Subtils also collected the Massey University Innovation Award, WaterForce Integrated Management Award, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award and the Environment Canterbury Water Quality Award.

Richard and Annabelle run 12000ha Omarama Station – a family-owned property previously farmed by Annabelle’s parents Dick and Beth Wardell.

Situated south of Omarama Village, the Mackenzie Country property winters 23,000 stock units, including 7500 Merino ewes and 310 Angus-Hereford cows.   The diverse operation grows a range of crops, produces high quality wool and finishes around 10,000 lambs and 700 steers and heifers annually. Additional income is produced by a homestay and hydro electricity generation.

BFEA judges described Omarama Station as a “proven farm business demonstrating excellence in financial, environmental and social sustainability”.

The operation is run by an “exceptional team” that includes both family and staff, and its production and financial performance are “industry leading”.

Production has risen significantly since the installation of a centre pivot irrigation system that now covers 560ha. Water is utilised for irrigation and hydro generation in an “integrated way that results in improved water quality outcomes”.

The Subtils were early adopters of animal EID (electronic identification) and have worked with industry organisations to refine the use of this technology.

“A willingness to try things first is clearly stimulating and rewarding for the Subtils,” said judges.

“This makes their business ground-breaking and an outstanding example of innovation in sheep and beef production.”

Soil and water quality is tested regularly, said judges, and the Subtils have an excellent understanding of nutrient budgeting.

“The consideration for both the environment and community when making management decisions is proof that the Subtils are excellent stewards of the land.”

For the past 11 years the Subtils have worked with local iwi and the Department of Conservation to promote the regeneration of the native longfin eel population. As part of the tenure review process for the station, a 120ha flood plain, incorporating the Omarama stream, has been designated scientific reserve.  

A QEII National Trust covenant has been placed over 2500ha, including unique high-country bog wetland containing rare native species.  The covenant allows for managed grazing to ensure invasive weeds like hieracium (hawkweed) are controlled.

BFEA judges praised Richard and Annabelle’s ability to “fully integrate the classes of country available, while running a large, potentially complex business in an exceptionally organised manner”.

“Richard and Annabelle have continued the visionary thinking of Annabelle’s parents by continuously challenging the status quo.  Their motivation and openness to new ideas will ensure a challenging property remains a sustainable farming operation in perpetuity.”

The Subtils were also commended for their staff management, industry leadership and community involvement.

A BFEA field day will be held on Omarama Station, with the date to be advised.

Winners in the 2015 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards were:

Supreme award, Environment Canterbury Water Quality Award, WaterForce Integrated Management Award, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, and Massey University Innovation Award: Richard and Annabelle Subtil, Omarama Station, Omarama.

Donaghys Farm Stewardship Award: Mike and Ruth Williams, Brockworth Farm, and lessees of Rehutai (owned by Paddy Cotter), Decanter Bay.

LIC Dairy Farm Award: Stuart and Sara Russell, Bourke Family Trust, Ashburton. 

PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award, Hill Laboratories Harvest Award, Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award: Hamish and Annabel, Alastair and Sue Craw, Longridge Agriculture Ltd, Little Akaloa.

For more information on the 2015 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact Jocelyn Muller, BFEA Regional Co-ordinator, phone 027 549 7724 or email bfea@ecan.govt.nz