Southland farmers claim big prize at environment awards

NZ Farmer

The Southland Community Environment Awards celebrated members of the region who go above and beyond duty in their environmental practices at a function last Thursday.

The Pourakino Catchment Group was awarded the councillors' special award for its valuable efforts in its local community.

Formed in 2014 by a small group of proactive and environmentally aware farmers, their actions have helped improve knowledge of nutrient and land management and are going a long way to developing community interest and community solutions to environmental issues.

SInce its inception the group has held several field days and workshops and more than 85 per cent of farms in the catchment have a farm plan.

This is the second year in a row farmers have taken home the councillors' special award, after East Limehills farmers Malcolm and Margaret MacKenzie won the prize last year.

Environment Southland councillor and judge Marion Miller said the group had taken the Water and Land Plan on before it was finished.

"They've shown by example in their own little patch that they are leaders, that they are committed, that they are energetic, enthusiastic and innovative and they're dedicated to improving water quality."

Elya Holdings took the top title in the farming category. Set along the Te Anau-Mossburn Highway, Craig and Rachael Horrell run their 720 hectare specialist grazing unit and have done everything possible to minimise their environmental footprint.

They have fenced and planted more than 14 kilometres of the Wilderness Stream, placed QE2 covenants on 40ha of native bush, created shade by planting more than 20,000 trees and have developed seven wetlands to trap sediment and phosphorus.

They are also taking part in a trial next to the Mararoa River to control weeds and reduce the use and cost of chemical sprays.

Miller said even though Craig Horrell had not heard of the Water and Land Plan he was doing things that were way ahead of what the council had been thinking.

"It was really wonderful to see that people were using their noodles for the best outcome of the environment."

Father and daughter team George McMeeken and Jaimee Edwards were commended in the farming section.

Garry Christie was presented with an individual award for his dedication to good environmental practice, both on his own dairy farm at Mokotua and in a variety of other projects he lends a hand to.

Garry and Angie Christie run a self-contained 165ha dairy farm at Mokotua. Garry has spent 14 years fencing and restoring Christies Bush - a 13ha block.

A recent High Value Area report shows the undergrowth is recovering well after previously being damaged by browsing cattle and the block is now alive with the song of bellbirds, fantails and kereru.

Garry's dedication to good farming practice is visible with native shelter belts lining his paddocks, a water fountain aerating the wetland, and swale areas in his crop paddocks are fenced off to combat nutrient loss to waterways.

The judges were impressed by Garry's outstanding attitude and dedication to good management practices.