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Local couple win regional award

A Masterton sheep and beef farming couple have been crowned the Regional Supreme Winners of the Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The recipients, Andy and Gemma Phillips, started work on the Motumatai farm 14 years ago.

The duo purchased Motumatai – which had been in Gemma’s family since 1914 – in 2017 with a strategy for lifting livestock production and enhancing the natural beauty of the landscape.

When the Phillips with the Regional Supreme Award at a ceremony on Wednesday, the judges noted the Phillips have established a business excelling in every aspect of sustainability.

“Their farm systems are carefully aligned with the diverse physical resources available, and they prioritise continual improvement in environmental sustainability,” the judges said.

“Central to their business ethos is a distinctive approach to involving people for mutually beneficial outcomes, along with a dedication to mentoring and contributing to the community, catchment, and industry.

“Additionally, the business demonstrates strong financial performance when benchmarked against comparable enterprises.

“This enables further investment in on-farm projects, expansion of the nursery, and the creation of future opportunities for both the family and the farm team.”

The Phillips also lease three other properties, bringing their total farming area to 1365ha [1185ha effective].

Their sheep and beef breeding and finishing operation runs an estimated 500 cattle and 6500 sheep.

The pair use a combination of financial and environmental sustainability values on the farm.

They also have a strong focus on people in order to cultivate an inclusive and supportive environment, and mentor new staff to support them toward owning their own businesses.

Also noted by the judges is the way the Phillips carefully manage their soil and pastures, actively control pests and predators, and protect waterways with substantial fencing.

The couple – in conjunction with two other Wairarapa families – have also established commercial native plant nursery Piwakawaka Plants, with many of the trees grown there planted at Motumatai.

Thanks to the couple having planted trees on the property over many years, there are now significant areas of established native habitats.

In addition to winning the supreme regional award, the Phillips also won the Bayleys People in Primary Sector Award, the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award, and the NZFET Climate Recognition Award.

The supreme winner from each of the eleven regions involved in the awards will be considered for the Gordon Stephenson Trophy at the Trust’s National Showcase in Hamilton in June.

The recipients of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy will become the National Ambassadors for Sustainable Farming and Growing for 2024.

Other Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Award winners were:

Jason Christensen from Fernhill, Masterton, who was awarded the DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award, and the Greater Wellington Regional Council Award; Scott & Ana Gudsell of the Ngahau Trust at Pirinoa, who took home the Norwood Farming Efficiency Award; Stan & Jenny Braaksma of Motuiti, Masterton, who won the Greater Wellington BFEA Lifestyle Award; John & Nancy Keating of Domus Arborum, Carterton, who were highly commended in the Greater Wellington BFEA Lifestyle category; Harry, Tim, and Kate Gibbs of Stanmore Farm, Te Horo, who took out the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, the Hill Labs Agri-Science Award, and the Rabobank Agri-Business Management Award; Michael Grace, and Guy and Carolyn Parkinson if Terawhiti Station, Makara, who received the NZFET Innovation Award, and the NZFET Biodiversity Award.

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