About 700 people in late May attended a gala awards night in Whangerei, to see Omapere Rangihamama Trust farm, near Kaikohe, awarded the Ahuwhenua Trophy.
The three finalists are Paua Station in the Far North, and Mangaroa and Maranga Stations on the East Coast. The winner will receive $40,000 in prizes in addition to the $20,000 each has already won as a finalist.
In the last few weeks, Paua Station and Maranga Station have run field days to showcase their farms and impress the judges.
About 160 people turned out for the recent field day at Paua Station, at Te Kao about 20 minutes drive from Cape Reinga, at the top of the North Island. The station is owned by the Parengarenga Incorporation and consists of 2430ha of easy rolling coastal sand country on which are run 2800 mainly Angus cattle and 7000 sheep of which 6100 are ewes with a 118% lambing percentage.
Following morning presentations, attendees were taken on a farm tour on 4WD vehicles and saw firsthand how the Parengarenga Incorporation has developed its property over the years.
The judges said they were impressed by many aspects of what has happened at the property, including the secondment of skilled farm advisors to the farm committee to realise the potential of the farm. They also noted the introduction of a 'techno' system to improve subdivision and ultimately production, the excellent calving performance and the fencing of boundaries to provide wider buffer zones to protect Parengarenga Harbour, which is a major food source for its people.
The chairman of Parengarenga Incorporation, Chad Paraone, says entering the Ahuwhenua competition had helped lift their own performance and they greatly valued the feedback from the judges. He says one of the key goals is to shape the economic future of the Far North and get young people back on their land.
"Someone said that Te Kao (the town where Parengarenga Incorporation is based) was becoming a bit like a rest home in the sense that the old people are still here and young people go away to find jobs," he told Rural News. "What we want to do is to send our young people away and get them trained up and bring them back to Te Kao with all the latest techniques and skills and give them key roles in our community."
Paraone, who works as a consultant in the health sector in Auckland, says local knowledge is a key skill in managing farming operations in the Far North. He says they need innovation, but it must be relevant to local conditions.
"We have had consultants who have come here and given us advice on what we need to do, but they don't know our conditions and the issues of kikuyu grass and pasture management," he explains. "They don't understand why we have to run what might to some not be the most profitable cattle mix, but our guys here know it works here. We know the climate and conditions, so it's marrying innovation with local knowledge."
Paraone says Parengarenga is aiming to be a world-class operation and by entering the Ahuwhenua they have gained a great deal of good advice and helped kick-start their quest to do better and lift the bar.