Thursday, December 7, 2023

Showcase for the big smoke

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Richard and Dianne Kidd, of Helensville, on the South Kaipara Harbour, are showcase farmers for the huge, nearby Auckland population, a role they relish.
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Now they have the 2016 National Award from the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust to validate their 30-plus years of continual environmental improvement on a highly productive peri-urban farm.

National honours and the Gordon Stephenson Trophy bring a long list of expectations, including an overseas trip, a nationwide tour, an appearance before the Parliamentary Primary Select Committee and prizes from the Ballance Farm Environment Awards national sponsors.

“We will do our very best to represent farming positively to the people of Auckland, the rest of NZ and overseas, which is something that doesn’t faze us at all,” they said.

Only last week Richard and Dianne hosted 140 secondary students from Westlake Boys High on a geography field trip to do with Auckland’s three harbours.

“I gave them a good pitch about agriculture, which is not all pulling teats and dagging sheep, but has so many great avenues for fulfilling employment,” he said.

“Sadly many didn’t seem to be interested.”

At the May 6 field day for the Auckland supreme winner, on the Kidds’ 375ha Whenuanui Farm, a busload of Mt Albert Grammar agriculture students were invited and encouraged to ask questions.

Richard has a welcoming manner and familiar face, having featured in Woolworths/Foodtown/Countdown television advertisements for Angus beef.

The latest honours for environmental sustainability should be manna for Kaipara Lamb, a joint venture supply agreement between Progressive Enterprises, the Kidds and other district sheep farmers.

He was also third in the primetime televised, then-Skellerup Young Farmer Grand Final in 1984, which David attended in his baby bassinet before earning his own triumph 30 years later.

Dianne’s Queen’s Birthday MNZM cited her 27 years as a founding trustee of the Helensville District Health Trust and accomplishments in rural health administration.

“Our vision is to be the healthiest rural community in New Zealand,” she said.

The trust owns a birthing centre, a medical centre serving 15,000 people, and a House of Wellbeing social enterprise hub.

An economist by training and former teacher and funds manager, Dianne is a director of AsureQuality, the Co-operative Bank and Unitec deputy chair.

At the National Showcase event in the Bay of Islands, featuring all 11 regional supreme winners, the Kidds were joined by David and wife Janine, now farming on South Kaipara Head, another son Geoffrey, and manager Jeffery and Tracey Bradly.

The cheer squad was led by Auckland councillor Penny Webster, a former mayor of Rodney District Council and former president of Auckland Federated Farmers.

Third son Hamish was woken up in New York with his parents’ news.

Whenuanui Farm has its own comprehensive website, pitched as a film and photography location and a bed and breakfast in quintessential rural NZ only 45 minutes from the centre of Auckland.

It lies within the western green belt of the supercity, a few kilometres further out than the wine industry birthplace district of Kumeu.

The flat to easy-rolling property has been in Richard’s family since 1951 and Richard and Dianne have farmed it since 1978.

It carries nearly 5000 stock units, 40% sheep and 60% cattle.

The farm has been extended by 50% in recent years and features several fenced native bush areas to form biodiversity corridors from the back boundary, the coastal Woodhill Forest, to the front of the farm on SH16.

Woodhill is owned by Ngati Whatua o Kaipara, the trees managed by Hancock Forest Management and hosts several recreational activities like horse and mountain bike riding.

Under a long-term agreement, the Kidds are able to winter 300 Angus breeding cows and 60 of their mated heifers for three or four months in Woodhill, keeping down pampas grass and supplemented with hay.

This keeps them off the farm paddocks during the wetter months, leaving home-grown pasture to the early-lambing ewes.

It also balances the environmental pressures on Whenuanui, helping protect the farm from the effects of harsh summers and wet winters.

Mixed plantings of native trees, including kauri, rimu, totara and pohutukawa, have enhanced the margins of retired bush areas and natural regrowth is very evident where possums have been controlled.

More than 300 possums were culled last year after pohutukawa damage was noticed but they may be replenished, along with feral deer, from nearby Woodhill.

When the Kidds fenced and conserved bush areas they were able to get compensatory land titles from the former Rodney District Council, which they then transferred to a side road frontage for subdivision and sale.

The National Showcase judges said Richard and Dianne’s exceptional communication skills and broad understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing agriculture, would make them superb ambassadors for NZ primary industries.

“We are proud of what we have and what we have achieved and we have a story worth telling,” Richard said.

He approached the Farm Environment Award organisers several years ago to see if and how he could enter, but at that time the Auckland Regional Council was not participating.

Only last year were the persuasive efforts of Webster and fellow rural councillor Bill Cashmore enough to get the supercity involved.

As both inaugural Auckland supreme winners and national winners, the Kidds have repaid that faith.

“The awards give us a high profile and we can do what we can to break down perceived barriers,” Richard said.


More: and Country-Wide magazine, July 2016 issue.

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