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Opotiki Orchardists Win Supreme Award

Opotiki Orchardists Win Supreme Award

Opotiki kiwifruit growers Brett and Rachael Wotton are the supreme award winners of the third Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards – and the first orchardists to take the top prize.

They follow in the footsteps of Geoff and Gill Bran, who won the inaugural event in 2003, and Laurie and Joy Shearer, last year’s supreme winners. Both have farms in the Te Puke area.

At a special ceremony in Whakatane today (April 12), the Wottons also won the Ballance Nutrient Management Award and the Hills Laboratories Harvest Award.

The awards, which are coordinated regionally by Environment Bay of Plenty, are designed to encourage farmers to support and adopt sustainable farming practices.

Brett and Rachel Wotton operate a 22-hectare net canopy operation on five orchards located on Opotiki’s Tablelands. Chief judging coordinator Ian Pirani says the Wottons are actively involved in the kiwifruit industry, with their orchards used for workshops and demonstration days. He commended their enormous amount of industry knowledge. “They are at the forefront of industry changes and willing to use new information and technology.”

According to the judges’ comments, the couple’s 2004 harvest record for kiwifruit gold was more than double the industry average in trays per hectare. They had nearly twice the industry average for green kiwifruit. “They have also managed to obtain fruit size that is substantially up on the national average,” the judges said.

The judges also noted that, with great teamwork, the Wottons run an intensive contracting business that peaks at 100 staff during the busy picking season.

“They have developed excellent staff management skills through their organisation of a multi-cultural workforce. To retain targeted employees they have developed a scholarship scheme.” Brett and Rachael dispose of rubbish at an organic dump and recycle materials at Opotiki. They supply firewood to the local community and are involved in the local school attended by their children.

A field day will be held at the Wotton’s property in Opotiki on May 12. Mr Pirani encourages people to attend by calling the regional farm awards coordinator Sheree Phillips at Environment Bay of Plenty.

Other awards include:

David and Janine Reeves (Rotorua), winners of ANZ Grow Award

David and Janine Reeves’ purchased Kaharoa Farms in 1965, and added blocks in 1974 and 1992 to comprise a total farm area today of 594 hectares. About 470 hectares is effective pastoral country, 100 hectares in native forest, and 13 hectares in pine plantation.

With sheep, cattle, deer and dairy grazing they have to manage their farm effectively to obtain the best possible results. They are slowly moving out of deer because of erosion and low market prices.

They have great pride in their farm and have clear goals and action plans in place with a strong commitment to environmental sustainability. There is strategic thinking in the farm activities including comprehensive pest management control methods.

Paul and Joanna McCarthy (Galatea) - Winners of Livestock Improvement Best Dairy Farm Award and BFEA Heritage Restoration Award

Paul and Joanne McCarthy believe that good environmental management increases the pleasure, productivity and sustainability of their dairy farm and its practices. This belief can be seen on their farm through the increasing positive environmental results.

They established environmental and farm management goals and objectives, while taking into account lifestyle choices. Paul and Joanna are achieving the same productivity with fewer cows, than they had five years ago. Stock health is a key factor, which has been managed through shade and shelter, reducing milking pressure and maintaining excellent pastoral quality.

The couple have riparian protected all waterways and have developed wetlands for native bird breeding. They have applied the same management and environmental effort to their Department of Conservation lease land.

Barry and Maggie Waite, Farm manager: Carol Burt (Te Puke) - Winners of Richmond Best Livestock Farm Award

Barry and Margaret Waite purchased their farm in March 1978 and with daughter Carol Burt as farm manager have been able to develop a successful farming operation. With a total of 269 hectares, they have 180 effective hectares, 70 hectares in native bush and 20 hectares in pines.

Three quarters of their stock are cattle and the rest is sheep. Their stock is in excellent condition through good management, an example of this is having two troughs in most paddocks.

They have stock policies and monitoring systems in place, with regular weighing, excellent animal and event records, all which contributes to their good overall stock performance.

They have done extensive planting for shade, shelter and aesthetics around the property. With an Environmental Plan in place, they aim to fence off all bush areas and maintain good fencing systems.

Environment Bay of Plenty Environmental Awards

Barry and Pam Pethybridge (Te Puke) for environmental excellence in wetland conservation.

Christopher Mountfort (Whakatane) for environmental excellence and commitment in protecting farm areas through pest management, planting and fencing.

Gallagher Innovation Awards

Brian Earp (Te Puna): For an innovative approach to composting and environmentally friendly plantings.

Sarah Davey (Tauranga): For an innovative approach to integrating a diverse operation that includes various crafts, a workshop and an orchard.

Barry and Maggie Waite (Farm manager: Carol Burt) (Te Puke) for an innovative approach to block management and calf rearing.

Merit Awards

Stuart and Alison Paton (Murupara): For excellence in animal welfare and management.

Richard and Rose Powdrell (Te Puke): For excellence in staff relationship skills and team management.

Kihi and Maria Ngatai (Tauranga): For excellence in community involvement.

Winston Fleming (Rotorua): For excellence in native area conservation.

The Ballance Farm Environment Awards are designed to encourage farmers to support and adopt sustainable farming practices. The awards have been held in the Waikato for 13 years. This is their third year in the Bay of Plenty. This year they have also been held in the Waikato, Manawatu/Wanganui, Wellington, Canterbury, Southland and Otago region. The Bay of Plenty awards were staged in conjunction with Environment Bay of Plenty.

The awards’ principal sponsor, Ballance Agri-Nutrients, is joined in supporting the Farm Environment Awards by ANZ Bank, PPCS/Richmonds, Livestock Improvement Corporation, Gallagher Group and Hill Laboratories.

The aim of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards is to encourage and support farmers to pursue good environmental practices. They are designed to be a positive experience for everyone, an exchange of information and ideas and a chance for farmers to get information and advice from the various judging representatives and their peers, Mr Pirani says.

In 2005, judges for the Bay of Plenty Awards included representatives from Ballance Agri-Nutrients, ANZ Bank, Department of Conservation, Federated Farmers, farm consultants, Livestock Improvement, Deer Farmers Association, and Environment Bay of Plenty.

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