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Passion Pays Off In East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards

16 March 2012

Passion Pays Off In East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards

An “absolute passion for the land” has earned Hawke’s Bay sheep and beef farmer James Hunter the Supreme title in the 2012 East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

James, who farms 660ha (574ha effective) of coastal hill country near Porangahau, received the award at a Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony on March 15.

As well as the Supreme award, he also collected the Beef+Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award, the Gisborne District Council and Hawke's Bay Regional Council-sponsored East Coast Farming for the Future Award, the Massey University Discovery Award and the WaterForce Integrated Management Award.

BFEA judges praised the passion and commitment James and his wife Jane have shown for ‘Rangitoto’, describing the family farm as a “high-performing, well-run and planned unit”.

“Their knowledge of trees, wildlife, soils, stock and the overall performance of their farming business both financially and environmentally is outstanding.”

Rangitoto runs a mix of breeding and trading stock. Stock carried on the farm last year included 2045 breeding ewes and replacements, 500 trading hoggets, 98 breeding cows and 150R2 bulls. The farm also grows crops such as chicory, red clover and rape, with the performance of the summer crops contributing to excellent stock performance.

Judges commended the priority given to the protection of the coastal hill country land, and the Hunter’s obvious commitment to Rangitoto’s enhancement and sustainability.

James has been “very proactive in protecting waterways, creating interconnected dams and filtration zones wherever possible and protecting all native scrub and tree vegetation”.

Rangitoto has 19ha of wetlands and dams, 28ha of pine woodlots and 41ha of mainly regenerating native bush which is protected by QE II covenants. Over the years, three generations of the Hunter family have planted more than 10,000 poplar and willow poles.

BFEA judges said James is “always looking outside the square” and is not afraid to try new ideas. An example of this is the innovative use of sub-surface drainage to increase the productive potential of cultivatable mudstone slopes while minimising winter pugging and erosion.

James is a director of the QE II Trust. In the 2011 East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards he won the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Habitat Improvement Award and the East Coast Farming for the Future Award.

A field day will be held on Rangitoto on Wednesday 12 April, details to be confirmed.

Award winners in the 2012 East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards were:

• Supreme award, Massey University Discovery Award, WaterForce Integrated Management Award, Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award and East Coast Farming For The Future Award:  (sponsored by the Gisborne District Council and the Hawke's Bay Regional Council), James Hunter, ‘Rangitoto’, Porangahau, Hawke's Bay.

• Ballance Agri-Nutrients: Nutrient Management Award and LIC Dairy Farm Award:  equity managers Nick and Nicky Dawson, Great Glen Farms, Patoka, Hawke's Bay.

• Hill Laboratories Harvest Award and PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award:  Hartree Family (Greg, Rachael and Thomas), Black Oak Ltd, Puketapu, Napier.

For more information on the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust or the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact David Natzke, General Manager, New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, on 07 834 0400, or email