A Raglan Harbour Farm Conservation Project
Richard and Kerie Aubrey work with the QE2 Trust and Whaingaroa Harbour Care
Richard and Kerie Aubrey have transformed their Raglan harbourside farm since buying it in 2009, with extensive protection and conservation work.
Kerie and Richard Aubrey farm a 160ha property which is part of a peninsula jutting out into the Raglan Harbour. The Ambreed farm is next door, and past the Aubreys on the peninsula is a landlocked piece of land.
“We are surrounded by harbour here. On one side we have a 500m boundary with the harbour, and the other side there is an estuary where the ferry used to come up to 80 or 90 years ago.”
Kerie works on the farm while Richard has an off-farm job in town with Waikato Milking Systems. He works on the farm after work and during the weekends. They’ve used off-farm income to help develop the farm.
“We bought the farm in 2009 ago when the harbour wasn’t fenced, and cattle were walking around in the mud.
It was only two weeks after the Aubrey’s arrived on the property that they rang the QEII National Trust about protecting the bush block on their farm.
“We have 7.6ha of bush which is pretty special which we got covenanted with the QEII National Trust. This is full of rimu and puriri, and it’s fenced into the harbour edge.”
The Trust ranks the area as “acutely threatened” which is the highest ranking and means less than 10% of the original indigenous vegetation is left. Only 2.7% of the Raglan ecological district’s original indigenous vegetation remains today.
“Because it is such a beautiful piece of bush it seemed silly to have cows walking through it, and it was just being sabotaged by the stock. We covenanted it to protect it for future generations.
“The QEII National Trust and the Waikato Regional Council gave us some funding for fencing, and we incorporated it into the harbour edge. It has a higher quality fence than the two wire harbour fence, with four wires, two of which are electric.
The covenant was registered in 2010, and they describe it as modified primary coastal forest.
The trees grow right down to the water on the eastern boundary, and the forest has a good canopy of tawa, rimu and rewarewa with emergent rimu, totara and kahikatea trees.
It’s been five years since the fencing was done, so the understorey is recovering well. Lots of bellbirds are present in the bush along with grey warbler, tui and fantail.
There’s very little of this primary forest left around the harbour so the Aubrey’s block is highly representative of the original forests of the area.
Much of what remains around the harbour is kanuka and manuka, and the now extensive plantings by Whaingaroa Harbour Care.
Environment Waikato has an extensive monitoring programme in the harbour assessing health parameters. The Whaingaroa Catchment Plan is now in its eighth year and is a benchmark on which this community undertakes all its environmental initiatives.
“There’s been a huge push in the last 10 to 15 years fencing off the harbour, and now it’s all fenced off. It’s nice to know that erosion can’t occur and stock excrement can’t get in the waterways”, says Kerie. “In the estuary by the peninsula it used to have a sandy bottom and the ferry could come right up to our place. But now it’s all mud from the silt runoff. We approached Harbourcare and they planted 10,000 plants in the fenced off area in our second year here. Since then we have maintained it and every winter we fence off a few boggy bits and plant them up. We have a waterfall where people go whitebaiting.”
“We did have a few problems with wild animals such as deer, pigs and possums. We would go out and shoot 50 possums at night, and we used bait stations. Luckily a few years later a pest control programme was brought in, where the contractors come back every two to three years. It’s made a big improvement with the native fauna because there are no possums or rats now.”
Kerie and Richard started out farming with 20 acres 20 years ago and have increased their landholdings over time. They have three grown up children.
Mainly the Aubreys run dairy grazers including grazing Friesian and Jersey bulls for a local farmer. They go off the farm in spring, and they are paid on weight gain. They also have a mob of beef cows and finish their progeny.
Richard describes the property as paradise, and says one of his objectives was to create an asset to earn an income from, but also which can provide a lifestyle. “This is my gym. It’s a big commitment and gets a bit frustrating sometimes but on a beautiful sunny day it is magic.”
Since buying the farm, along with the protection work they have done, they’ve also developed the farm with regrassing, fencing and water reticulation.