Thursday, December 7, 2023

Plant a tree, grow a community

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Matawai farmers Eugene and Pania King are dedicated to sustainability but it isn’t just about the environment. Luke Chivers reports.
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Sheep and beef farmers Eugene and Pania King from Kiriroa Station at Matawai are combining their passion for the land with hard work and whanau support.

The couple have a longstanding connection with their family, their environment and their local community.

“We both grew up in rural New Zealand and a career in agriculture was inevitable,” Pania says. 

“We’ve always been really passionate about the sector. There’s nothing else quite like it.” 

Eugene and Pania met in 1992 while shearing. Not long after they started dating they found themselves packing their bags and setting off on a world trip using shearing to fund their travels.

“We were young and eager. All we wanted to do was see the world and shear sheep. And that’s exactly what we did,” Pania says. 

“We sheared in Europe, across the United Kingdom and in Australia. But we also travelled across Asia and North America.  

“I don’t think either of us expected to be travelling for 15 years,” she says.

But returning home was always on the cards – and so too was the goal of owning their own farm. 

“We finished our shearing career in Taranaki with whanau.” 

It was there their passion for economic, environmental and social sustainability was formed.

They farmed for 12 years with family on Mangaroa and Ruakaka Stations on the east coast of the North Island.

“Initially, we were farming with our family on a block in Mangaroa and Ruakaka. 

The stock on Kiriroa include bulls and steers.

“People make places,” Pania says. 

“And for that reason we make a big effort to support our local community.

“Without community you’ve got nothing really. 

“Our rural communities are already small enough so it’s important that as farmers we support one another – whether that be a mid-year Christmas function or at the local rugby game or by just visiting a neighbour to see how they’re doing.

“We hear a lot about issues like mental health in the rural sector but the primary way we farmers are going to make an impact to these is by sustaining our communities,” she says. 

“Sustainability is not just about knowing what the environmental impacts affecting the sector are and making improvements on-farm – we have to also remember to support the longevity of our whanau and our communities.”

Eugene and Pania say their next steps are to grow their business even more and future-proof it for their tamariki.

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