Farm environment awards recognise ongoing investment

Farm environment awards recognise ongoing investment
The Powdrell’s have undertaken a number of major initiatives on farm, including tree planting projects for erosion control, riparian planting, and retiring nonproductive land to encourage the regeneration of native bush.

Multiple wins at this year’s Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards recognise a long-standing and ongoing commitment to environmental management for farmers Rick and Rose Powdrell. Rick and Rose farm a 382-hectare effective drystock operation at Emerald Hills in Te Puke.
They began to explore environmental management practices 25 years ago when they developed their first soil and water plan with Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
Since then they’ve undertaken a number of major initiatives on farm, including tree planting projects for erosion control, riparian planting, and retiring non-productive land to encourage the regeneration of native bush.
The Powdrell’s have also been involved in biological control trials to help in the prevention of nodding thistle. While environmental management may be seen as a recent development in farming, Rick believes it goes further back.
“We’ve done a heap of work over the years, but before us my father and grandfather were carrying out what amounted to environmental protection.
They were fencing off vulnerable slopes and gorges primarily to protect stock, but at the same time they created buffers that had a positive effect on the environment.”
The Powdrell’s are continuing this work around the farm, and have put in 30 detention and retention dams to collect run-off,and prevent phosphorus and E. coli from entering waterways.
At a recent Red Meat Profit Partnership field day that Rick attended, encouraging research into the impact of retention dams was discussed.
“There’s starting to be some good scientific data showing the benefits of the dams and how much phosphorus and E. coli they stop from getting into waterways.”
Another recent initiative that will have a positive impact on farm is the addition of reticulated water.
The decision to make this investment coincided with Emerald Hills being invited to be a Beef and Lamb NZ Environmental Focus Farm for the Bay of Plenty region.
Rick says the environmental assessment done at that time identifi ed the lack of reticulation as a key issue for the property.
“Around 75% of the farm didn’t have reticulation, so we’ve put down a bore and reticulated those areas. It showed its true worth over the summer, because if we hadn’t done it we would have needed to seriously de-stock.”
Rick acknowledges the financial investment required to put environmental management initiatives in place, but believes the flow-on effects make good business sense.
“Talk to people who’ve done it and listen to what they’ve learned in the process. You’ll often hear farmers say is that there are huge management and production payoffs that come out of making these investments.” He also believes that the economic considerations are only one part of a wider debate about farming.
“We have to be realistic that in this day and age our social license to farm is being challenged. As stewards of the land we need to maintain or improve what we started with. If we don’t, we’ll be called to account for it.”
Rick is passionate about supporting the farming community and in recent years has served on a number of boards dedicated to this aim.
He was National Meat and Fibre chair for Federated Farmers, has recently become involved with the Primary ITO’s stakeholder council, and is also a trustee on the Campaign for Wool New Zealand Trust.
He says he’s often asked how he finds the time for numerous off-farm roles, but says these commitments enable him to give back to an industry he cares about.
“I really enjoy the people in farming. As long as I feel like I’m achieving something worthwhile for those people, then I’m happy to do it.”
Rick and Rose were recognized in three categories at this year’s Farm Environment Awards. They were joint winners of the People in Primary Sector Award, the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award, and the Treeline Native Nursery Farm Stewardship Award.
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