Key Drivers for Environmental Work


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The health of Lake Omapere has always been a key driver for environmental work done by Bruce and Helen Bell on their 108 hectare (83ha effective) dairy farm near Kaikohe.

They won the Northland Regional Council Water Quality Award in the 2007 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The farm runs 200 cows and the Bells put significant effort into ensuring that their farming methods do not impact on the water quality of watercourses and Lake Omapere.

The judges of the awards said Bruce and Helen are not the type to blow their own trumpet. However, they demonstrate clear motivation in terms of the development of the property and wetland and riparian enhancement, with focus on planting of indigenous species.

“The Bells have clearly understood the environmental consequences of their management decisions and have striven to ensure that their decisions result in superior environmental outcomes,” the judges said.

They show excellent commitment and effort in fencing bush remnants and in wetland/riparian enhancement.

There is now a Land Environment Plan over the property, prepared in association with Northland Regional Council (NRC). The Bells have made good use of the NRC advice and funding available for fencing. Appropriate choices have been made for shade, shelter, drainage, track building, retirement and land management.

The property has numerous springs, wetlands and streams and all have good indigenous riparian vegetation which provides excellent buffers and shading to decrease water temperature. They have progressively retired non productive areas for ease of stock management, soil conservation and nutrient management.

The Bells are getting good production off a low input farm, using simple systems and managing the farm themselves without outside assistance.

Also awarded in 2007 was Mataka Station in the Bay of Islands, which has the highest number of brown kiwi on any private property in New Zealand.  Farm Environment Award judges said that fact alone would have made Mataka hard to beat for the PGG Wrightson Habitat Improvement Award.

Farm manager Robert Sterling has an outstanding ecological enhancement programme on 1200ha Mataka, occupying most of the Purerua peninsula, which forms the north-western end of the Bay of Islands.

Mataka is a very challenging place to farm, exposed to wind and sun, being folded hill country on a peninsula that is prone to drying out in summer and pugging in winter.

Mataka has multiple ownership as a farm park. Robert ensures that the conditions of consent are met in terms of ecological restoration and enhancement (covering approximately 137 ha), including a highly successful pest control programme and ongoing management for the residents.

The Bells and Mataka Station show the diversity and achievements of award winners throughout Northland in the two years of the awards so far.

Entries for the 2008 awards are now open and will close on Friday, December 7.

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