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Genuine passion for environment, industry and community sees Hawke's Bay dairy farmers win the East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards

21 March 2019

Genuine passion for environment, industry and community sees Hawke's Bay dairy farmers win the East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Hawke's Bay dairy farmers, Nick and Nicky Dawson, have won the East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The couple have farmed the 186ha property, Glenelg, at Patoka in the Hastings district since 2001. Since then, the structure has evolved to become a 50:50 equity partnership with Opiki dairy farmers Stuart and Ann McPhail, trading as Great Glen Farming Ltd.

Outside the partnership, the Dawsons are leasing a neighbouring 500ha sheep and beef farm, which is run by their son Ben. They also have two daughters, Libby at university and Felicity in Year 11.

“When you put work into a farm, it’s part of your life. It’s not just a job or a business. It’s home,” Nick says. “We could live anywhere in the world, but this is our spot.”

The win was announced at the East Coast awards dinner in Napier on Wednesday night (March 20th).  The 200-strong audience heard the Dawsons have gained superb environmental performance through innovation and efficiency. The milking herd has been reduced from 500 to 360 cows and goes to once-a-day milking before Christmas, yet production remains well ahead of district and national averages. Water use in the shed is 40 per cent below the dairy industry average. Twenty per cent of the farm is fully retired from grazing and stock have been excluded from all waterways. Predator control is an ongoing activity on the farm with biodiversity reaping the benefits.

It is the second year in a row a dairy farmer has taken out the East Coast’s supreme award. The farm regularly hosts visitors and school groups, including Fonterra Open Gate in 2017. One of the finals judges, 2018 Horizons supreme winner Helen Long, said the Dawsons showed a strong desire to close the rural-urban divide.

“Nick and Nicky display a genuine passion and enthusiasm for their environment, industry and community; they are generous people, sharing their time and beautiful farm to the public.”

“Nick and Nicky exhibit a good sense of pride and respect for people, livestock and the environment,” fellow finals judge Alastair Ormond said.

Nick has recently finished a stint with Hawke's Bay Federated Farmers. He is a member of the Hastings District Council’s Rural Community Board, chairman of Ospri Hawke's Bay and on the Biodiversity Hawke's Bay working committee. Nicky is a teacher in Hastings.

As well as the Supreme Award, the Dawsons won the Bayleys People in Primary Sector Award, DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award, WaterForce Integrated Management Award and the Predator Free Farm Award.

Wairoa hill country sheep and beef farmers Dave Read and Judy Bogaard, Waiau Station, won four category awards – the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award, Hill Laboratories Agri-Science Award, Massey University Innovation Award and the East Coast Farming for the Future Award as sponsored by the Gisborne District Council and the Hawke's Bay Regional Council.

A Flemington sheep and beef finishing operation, Watergreen Tourere Partnership, won the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award and the Norwood Agri-Business Management Award.

Run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, the awards champion sustainable farming and growing through an awards programme that sees one regional supreme winner selected from each of the 11 regions involved. These 11 winners will be profiled at the Awards’ National Sustainability Showcase in Hamilton, on Thursday 6 June, with each in the running for the Gordon Stephenson Trophy.