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Talent, Commitment Recognised In PINZ Award Finalists

Achievements as diverse as biodiversity monitoring via eDNA, championing open trade on the global stage, and recycling vineyard posts feature among finalists in the 2024 Primary Industries New Zealand Awards.

The awards are a highlight of the PINZ Summit in Wellington, July 2-3, and celebrate and recognise innovation, excellence, collaboration and success in the farming, forestry and fishing sectors.

Up for the Rural Hero of the Year Award are Alastair Macgregor, Craig Hickman, and Cara and John Gregan.

Macgregor, a Farmy Army volunteer, put in many hours with Commence the Re-Fence.

As a retired farmer, with more than 40 years’ practical agricultural experience, his fencing and other skills were a huge asset to Cyclone Gabrielle-hit farmers.

"He’s a real good bugger," as one farmer put it.

Craig Hickman, aka ‘Dairyman’, takes a novel, honest and knowledgeable approach to his communications.

Active on platforms such as Facebook and Tik-Tok, Hickman’s style and humour discussing dairy and wider agricultural issues also grab the interest of non-farmers.

Waimate dairy farmers John and Cara Gregan have donated more than 5000 mince meals to foodbanks through the Meat the Need programme.

They also hosted a charity golf day that raised $12,000 for mince and milk meals for their local foodbank.

The three nominations for the Guardianship & Conservation (Kaitiakitanga) Award are excellent examples of the environmental stewardship happening in agriculture.

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South Taranaki farmers Jane and Damian Roper prove that dairy farming and biodiversity can work well together.

The couple have built up their riparian planting programme to around 12,000 plants a year, restored an entire wetland, and have constructed a unique plant nursery with the input of local iwi.

At the same time, the Ropers have managed to reduce stocking numbers by about a fifth while growing per-cow production from 400kgs of milk solids to 620kgs, and increasing profitability by 20%.

A second Kaitiakitanga finalist is the Otago South River Care’s catchment collective team.

Administrator Anna Benny says, working with farmers in the catchment, the collective is on target to meet goals such as 30,000m of riparian planting, 3000m of riverbank reconstruction, and 36,000sq.m. of wetland planted.

"From growing the membership fivefold, bringing innovation such as drone seeding to our doorsteps and demonstrating how each of us can make a difference on our own farms, the work the project has achieved has amplified the impact that any of us could have made alone," Anna says.

AgResearch’s eDNA Water Quality Team, led by Dr Adrian Cookson, is the third Kaitiakitanga Award finalist.

Through interweaving mātauranga Māori and western science, the team has developed a new approach to assessing water quality beyond usual e.coli and nitrate indicators.

Fish, plants, insects, birds and microorganisms that live in or near rivers leave tiny traces of genetic material from their skin, faeces, pollen, etc., in the water. This eDNA can be detected using sampling tools that require very little training, empowering communities to take a holistic approach to biodiversity monitoring and restoration.

Diverse talents are also showcased in the Outstanding Contribution to Primary Industries category.

For three decades The Country radio host Jamie Mackay has held politicians and others to account and celebrated all that is good in the primary industries.

As his nominator said: "Jamie’s genuine conviction that farmers are the backbone of New Zealand is reflected in the talent showcased on the show, the questioning lines he poses and opinion pieces he pens."

Vangelis Vitalis’s more than two decades’ work advocating for agricultural trade liberalisation and reducing barriers to trade for New Zealand primary industry exporters makes him another Outstanding Contribution finalist.

His nominator spoke of Vitalis’s tenacity, commitment to engagement, and "a world-renowned reputation as a leading trade policy expert".

The third Outstanding Contribution finalist is Nelson’s Julian Raine, described as "an innovator and entrepreneur in horticulture and dairy who is dedicated to supporting and inspiring others".

Raine, a former Nuffield Scholar, has taken on a multitude of leadership, community and governance roles on organisations as varied as the Nelson Milk Treatment Station, the Horticulture NZ board and Berryfruit Export NZ.

There are six other 2024 PINZ Awards. 

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