With some 137 farms around New Zealand covering 376,942ha, Landcorp has a lot of moving parts. But the state-owned enterprise has responsibilities beyond its immediate staff and animals - it must look after the land it is developing and farming while also supporting surrounding communities.
Graeme Mulligan, Landcorp’s general manager of farm operations, says Landcorp works with its partners to “develop a business footprint alongside and within an environmental footprint”.
The 26,000ha Wairakei Estate near Taupo puts this philosophy into practice. Landcorp holds a 40-year lease to farm the former forestry estate, which it is developing and converting with joint venture partner Tramco. The plan is to convert about 12,000ha of the estate into dairy farming land, 6000ha into dairy support and livestock operations and leave the remaining 8000ha in forestry and conservation planting.
JOBS AND GOODWILL
So far, 3500ha of the 26,000ha Wairakei estate has been converted to dairying, 3200ha has been developed into livestock and dairy support and the balance is either in new forestry development or already in riparian conservation areas.
Once the conversion is complete, there will be about 29 dairy operations farming about 32,000 dairy cows – which translates into about 180 permanent jobs. “But you can virtually multiply that by a factor of three so there’s a further 500 people in the community who will be directly part of that farming operation, not to mention the spin-off growth in Taupo,” Mulligan says.
As well as jobs, the estate provides access to members of the public who want to enjoy the land, for organised groups wanting do things like horse treks or hikes.
Landcorp and its partners also work closely with local iwi and regional councils to deal with issues such as water issues.
LOOKING AFTER THE LAND
“I class it as farming within a national park-type environment,” Mulligan says.
He likes to talk about rejuvenation, not just development or sustainability. “Rejuvenation gives a direction and culture of improving the footprint in which we farm.”
It’s a far cry from how land used to be developed, where every square inch was taken over for farming. Mulligan says the difference is obvious when you look at aerial photos of the opposing banks of the Waikato River.
“On the side which is new development with our partners there are significant riparian strips which have been laid off against the river. What has been farmed for generations on the other side of the river is farmed right up to the edge. That’s the difference between developed land 100 years ago and what has been developed now. In my book that’s significant and it’s a good thing to be involved with.”Riparian strips – the strips of land next to waterways - are now being planted in native species, rather than the “anaemic” pines which formerly made up the forestry estate.
Mulligan says ultimately the success of operations like Wairakei won’t just be judged by happy consumers, but by Landcorp’s partners, the regional council and the community in which it operates.