Landcorp Eweburn Station

July 2011

Conservation work at Landcorp's Eweburn Station bordering a National Park

The conservation work protecting 349ha in 13 covenants at Landcorp’s 3788ha Eweburn Farm in the Te Anau Basin is a textbook case of collaboration, and shows how conservation gains can be leveraged on a large scale when everyone works together.

Landcorp as a company has brought into the process of protecting streams and wetlands and natural features on properties, and that sort of thinking has come from the top down. But it has also taken managers like Ray Tibbles who understand what it means on the farm for them.

Interview with Mark Sutton :

As a result of the relationship we have built up, and them seeing the real benefits of fencing, and how they can develop the adjacent land more intensively, it becomes a win/win.

Protection mechanisms are a good alternative and help provide a good farming operation. Fencing off these areas also saves them a lot of time and a lot of manpower.

Now Eweburn has 11 registered covenants with the QEII National Trust and two new ones pending for a total of 349ha fenced off and protected. Ray just rings me now and says let’s do another one.

At Eweburn Mark is helping protect wetlands, bush, shrubland, and some all intertwined. Flying over the farm shows a mosaic of covenants against the green pasture.

Eweburn borders Fiordland National Park, and the farm grades from the most developed eastern end to the most protected western end where it meets the park.

The farm protection fencing is a work in progress, and it fits in with the farm cashflow.

This farm is a good example of best practice. What we have been able to do is capture a lot of areas of naturalness that might have had cattle through them now and then.

They still have a high degree of naturalness, and we don’t need to get into revegetation work, or spend thousands of dollars on riparian plantings.

Last year the farm was given the nod from head office to get more into deer. Deer suit this type of land, and they can do more with them than trying to fatten lambs.

The expansion of the deer unit has reshaped our thinking about how we keep the deer out of streams and wetlands.

The key issue is the three-way partnership between the two trusts I work for and Landcorp. The two trusts are the QEII National Trust and the Waiau Trust, which is short for Waiau Fisheries and Wildlife Habitat Enhancement Trust.

The fencing cost breakdown is 25% QEII National Trust, 25% Waiau Trust and 50% Landcorp.

Owners can make the money go further by putting in their own labour. It’s a win/win/win.

The Waiau Trust was set up in 1996 as part of a negotiated settlement package between the Waiau working party and ECNZ, which is now Meridian Energy . It was part of the resource consents negotiated for the operation of the Manapouri power station. The Waiau Trust involved Fish and Game and DoC, and they decided rather than each individual organization doing their own thing, they would create the Trust.

$5M was paid at that time, and invested, and only the interest on this money is spent annually.

The Trust has one rep from the community, one from Meridian, two from DoC and two from Fish and Game. Mark job-shares his role with planner Jan Riddell.

Last year the Trust spent about $307,000 in its total budget, and of that about $150,000 went on fencing. It has spent $3.5million, a large portion of which is riparian fencing, since 1998.

The Trust’s objective is to enhance the fishery and wildlife habitat in the catchment and provide public access to the river.

Landowners either sign up to a habitat enhancement agreement or a covenant. The covenant gives long-term protection for an area.

At Eweburn all the protected areas are now covenanted with the QEII National Trust, including one which was previously covered by a habitat enhancement agreement.

At the same time if there is some indigenous vegetation they need to clear I work on the resource consent process, which is required in the district plan.

We have been able to get all the agencies: DoC, iwi, Fish and Game, all the councils and agencies and take them on a field trip to show them what the plans are for protection. We’ve got complete buy-in from all the agencies, and it saves going through a hearing process.

Eweburn has been recognized in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, in the Environment Southland’s awards and in deer industry awards.

It’s a good example of what people should be doing more of.

This farm is also a good example of what Mark is doing throughout the catchment

At the Waiau Trust we have identified all the sub-catchments on the main rivers, which is where we want to put our emphasis for protection.

On Eweburn one whole sub-catchment is protected, that is the type of approach we are really looking for.

If we don’t go for that approach we are really only tinkering.

For example on Landcorp’s Mararoa Station we have just finished fencing 14km of streams.

People are naturally cautious and guarded about people like me being greenies. Once they get over that, they realize that the benefits are there for them and it is a win and a good thing to do.

A hell of a lot of people are a whole lot greener than they would admit to.

Interview with Ray Tibbles:

Eweburn is 3788ha, of which 3101ha is farmed with sheep, cattle and deer. It’s a breeding property mainly, with some deer finishing. We have five permanent staff, including me.

Ewe numbers have dropped in the past few years from 6500 down to 2700 this winter.

We have 19,500 stock units altogether, with 70% deer, 13.5% cattle and 16% sheep.

This winter we will have 2700 ewes on, including two-tooths and mixed age. They have a Perendale base and are all mated to Landcorp’s Lamb Supreme terminal rams. We buy in the Perendale replacements. The lambs all go to be finished at Landcorp’s Dawson Downs property at Balclutha.

We run 2630 cattle stock units, made up of 317 mixed age cows, 85 yearlings and 68 heifer calf replacements. The herd has an Angus base and they are bred to straight Angus bulls bred by Landcorp. There are some Angus cross and some Charolais cross but they are being phased out.

Our deer are the main thing: they have a red base. We have 4200 mixed age hinds, 600 yearling hinds, 60 yearling stags which are kept for putting over the yearling hinds, and then killed.

We have 120 mixed age red stags, and 1450 weaner hinds, and 1450 weaner stags. Weaning is after rutting.

And we use 16 wapiti bulls to mate over 700 to 800 terminal hinds.

Of the deer we breed, at weaning we transfer 1200 to 1400 fawns to other Landcorp farms for finishing. All the wapiti cross animals of both sexes are transferred, and another 500 red stags are transferred at weaning post rutting.

We finish the remainder of the deer, and this year to date we have killed 800 spikers.

We get an 88-94% fawning from the hinds, higher than the target 90% scanned in fawn.

Our lambing target is 140%, and this year even with the bad spring we reached 142%.

Our calving is 91%, so we are meeting our targets there.

Our deer carcass weight target is 56kg, and we are currently at 54-55kg.

Eweburn is suited to deer, so that’s why we’ve been dropping ewe numbers and increasing deer numbers. Dropping ewes also means we can increase deer performance. Sheep numbers were also reduced because we were very short on areas to spread ewes at lambing without going in with the hinds –which is not a good idea.

We are spending about $210,000 a year fencing on the farm. At the moment we have two years of fencing planned ahead of us – 13 or 14km this year, and the same next year. This year we are fencing 140ha into deer. It’s some of our cattle breeding country which will give us more areas for the hinds.

Ross McDuff is a local fencer and he works on contract for us, and he’s a top operator, very tidy, and fast. He works on his own, and he knows how stock move because he’s done a lot of farming.

There’s a lot of work involved in fencing, budgeting and ordering materials, then to prepare the fence lines, to order and lay out the fence materials for Ross, and to pick up all the old gear afterwards. When we are not doing stock, we are doing that. Without the effort put in by my staff none of these fencing projects would happen.

How the protection work benefits the farm:

It’s a bit easier to muster the paddocks, and it stops us having animals sneak away into the bush or creeks. You don’t lose fawns when hinds plant them in the scrub.

The fencing protects the waterways and keeps the creeks cleaner. It makes a much nicer environment to work in. In certain places it gives you a lot of shelter.

Deer can destroy bush pretty smartly, so fencing it off protects it.

Being a fisherman, I like seeing the stream life protected, and we have a lot of birdlife, including fernbirds here.

People look over the fence and see we are doing the right thing, and don’t have animals destroying these natural habitats. That helps with marketing, and it is a help with Landcorp’s image. And we keep onside with Fish and Game and DoC.

Mark is brilliant to work with, and he’s a practical person. He’s pretty laid back but very efficient, and understands what we are doing.

Interview with Graeme Mulligan:

Eweburn is typical of how Landcorp is protecting natural habitats on farms.

In line with our statement of corporate intent, it is one of our responsibilities to ensure that we carry out commercial farming in a sustainable way with particular protection around these natural values that exist on many of our properties.

Because of the nature of some of the farms, there is more conservation work on some than others. We have the same template of looking at every farm and asking what should we be conserving on this farm.

Our National Property Manager ensures we have the current annual budget of $600,000 allocated appropriately nationwide. The allocation is based on “best case” protection of those areas of significant conservation values.

And as the land is farmed more intensively we are reserving and preserving some of the natural habitats using QEII National Trust covenants which are going to protect them forever.

Eweburn is a young farm really, with some of the more recent development starting in 1972.

The deer unit is being expanded, we are putting in new deer fencing around swampland and riparian areas. Our protection also connects with the World Heritage National Park right next door.

Fencing off these areas also allows us to concentrate our resources and investment on the best land, for example fertiliser.

And by fencing we are forming natural buffers to any waterway to collect any run-off from the farmland.

Eweburn’s covenants are buffering the waterways before they enter Lake Te Anau. These areas are also natural wildlife corridors linking existing DoC areas to the lake.

The conservation work is not about the money, because Landcorp funds the biggest part of the cost. It’s about conservation values, and the aesthetic and intrinsic values of what we are protecting. That gives us the opportunity to concentrate valuable input resources in specific areas.

We can farm with more confidence; we can farm without fear of non-compliance.

It shows a very distinct line to all new staff as to how we farm and the values under which we farm and why.

The satisfying thing is we can go to any of our Te Anau properties and see similar things to what is happening at Eweburn.

We can’t underestimate the input of the farm managers. We give our farm managers a lot of licence to determine the boundaries of the covenants.

And it’s a significant physical effort from the farm managers and their staff to get the fencing done on these properties.

Mark’s practical approach to conservation and farming is of a very high order, he has the respect of our farm managers.

Graeme says it’s a beneficial process all round, because it’s uneconomic to turn every last swamp into farmland. Conservation values through previous decades had been disappearing fast; Landcorp’s resources should be put into the best land and there are major water quality benefits.

Landcorp also does water quality testing through appropriate laboratories to substantiate best practice.