Environmental leadership in land management

Land management category winners in the 2022 Taranaki Regional Council Environmental Awards.

Category sponsor: Corteva(external link)

Robin and Jacqueline Blackwell - for environmental stewardship and improving ecosystem health through riparian fencing and planting.

Robin and Jacqueline Blackwell’s Ratapiko farm is a fantastic example of successfully implementing riparian planting on a dry-stock farm. The eastern hill country farmers have striven to be aware of and ahead of regulations around protecting and planting waterways, a difficult task given the fast-moving changes in recent years. Working with Taranaki Regional Council since 2003, the couple identified which wetlands needed protection and stock exclusions. Wetlands have been planted to create habitats for native flora and fauna while indigenous vegetation has been retained on steep areas to prevent erosion. They’ve planted 11,800 riparian plants and fenced 23km of waterways, ensuring that 100% of streams and drains have now been fenced or planted on at least one side. Improvements in water quality include a decline in water temperatures over the summer, reduced sediment and a lowering of nutrient run off.

Mathew and Vanessa Vujcich - for a significant contribution to the protection and enhancement of precious native habitats in Taranaki and enlisting landowner support for these efforts.

Vanessa and Mat Vujcich take a holistic approach to farming. They have given over around a third of their 100ha beef farm near Inglewood to biodiversity and have QEII covenants on 28ha of bushland, which is also part of Taranaki Regional Council’s Key Native Ecosystem programme. Planting of around 15,000 native plants has taken place on retired areas while livestock has been excluded from waterways thanks to 15km of protective fencing. Vanessa and Mat are proactive supporters of Towards Predator-Free Taranaki and the Council’s Self-help possum programmes. All of this work is paying dividends with a rise in native birds and indigenous plant species, including kārearea (native falcon) and whio (blue ducks), as well as native fish. They undertake regular water quality monitoring too. They have embraced regenerative farming to minimise the impact on the environment, and hold workshops to spread the word to other farmers about regenerative methods.

Mark and Rob Hooper - for a significant contribution to the protection and enhancement of precious native habitats in Taranaki.

Mark Hooper and his father Rob are working with Iwi and Hapū to preserve the native forest and wetland habitat around Kairoa Pā. The Hoopers, who run a 177ha dairy farm in Lepperton, have worked collaboratively to protect the site and provide access to mana whenua and archaeologists to assess the remaining features of the pā. They’ve put up an information sign for the local and international visitors who come to the site which informs people about the pā’s engineering and tracks to and around the pā are well maintained. The pā is within a 7.3ha forest and wetland ecosystem which has been covenanted with the QEII Trust. Forest restoration work continues in a Key Native Ecosystem. As well as fencing around 4km of the KNE, the Hoopers have planted 900 native plants in and around the site and work with Taranaki Regional Council on controlling predators.

Ed Whiting/Airport Farm Trust - for environmental stewardship, sustainable land management and improving ecosystem health through riparian fencing and planting.

Ed Whiting is using state-of-the-art technology to drastically reduce the environmental impact of his multi-farm operation in New Plymouth and Midhurst. His Airport Farm Trust operates a 225 dairy herd and rears 450,000 free range chickens at any one time. Air quality, ammonia and CO2 monitoring systems have been installed at the chicken farm while tractors, spreaders and even the cows have GPS trackers to monitor where they are and the application rates of all products. The operation has an extensive water quality monitoring programme and all the data is analysed to check impacts on the environment and develop best farming practices. Investment has gone into managing waste streams and using this as fertiliser. Soil is tested to check its nutrient status, helping to cut the use of synthetic fertilisers. Around 4,000 feijoa trees have been planted at the chicken farm to improve animal welfare and help the environment while 4,900 native trees make up the riparian planting at the dairy farm. Ed works closely with Taranaki Regional Council on the monitoring programme to provide environmental data and also works with the Council’s pest control experts.

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Education | Business | Community | Dairy