Excellence For Environment

by Ann van Engelen

The family have focussed on enhancing and protecting their 267ha property’s sensitive areas such as limestone outcrops and wetlands and were awarded the Environment Canterbury Water Quality Award at this year’s regional Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

“Gullies and water courses have been fenced off and planting programmes are underway. Our farm system has been built to suit the environment in this drought-prone area and we use forages that tolerate the dry climate better than ryegrass,” says Lyndon.

Winning the water quality award is very much a family achievement through commitment and dedication with the next generation driving it.

“Our eldest son is very excited because in Canterbury it doesn’t get any better than that award at present.

“It has proved to us that what we are doing seems to be the right thing and we have renewed our focus and realise there is no room for complacency. There are the things we are doing daily that have either a negative or positive impact on our environment.”

The family have recognised things they need to work on including utilising the latest version of ‘Overseer’ and identifying ‘hot spots’ in their farming operation. The award has made them acutely aware of how they personally manage their impacts and how they may address issues that arise.

“It is about change, and the practices we used in the past because of the focus around water quality, may now need to be done differently,” says Lyndon.

“We have made a decision to remove our ewe flock from the farm and establish more deer fencing. This will also give us the opportunity to protect more sensitive areas on the property.”

The family are part of the Hurunui Water Project and understand that water could be flowing in Spring 2020 and they position themselves for that. 

“We see the potential of different opportunities water will give us and that may not be growing grass and running livestock, but the deer will still have a place on our dry hills,” says Lyndon.

“We can’t wait for the water to come.

Irrigation gives us options such as viticulture, seed or vegetable production.

“We believe because we have been recognised by our peers and industry specialists as being at the forefront of water quality, we need to be up to the challenge of meeting industry standards.

“There has been bad publicity with irrigation and dairy cows, but irrigation is being used for a range of things, not just dairy farming.

“The last two years have been tough mentally and financially on the community and if an alternative is there, we need to take it. We have the consents — we just have to build the scheme and that requires farmers to invest together. Opportunities will open up that can add value to NZ Inc.

“The government has recognised the value of irrigation schemes and understand why irrigation is important, and we believe we can balance the negative environmental impact — the answer lies in the middle of the fors and againsts. 

“We should be proud to be farmers.

The Matthews family believe the deer industry has a very 
positive future

Yes it needs to be done in a sustainable manner and I believe the majority meet that, and if we don't, we need to make the changes. That is part of the reason we run our ‘puketiradeer.com’ website.

It allows everybody a view into our world.

“Two years ago we had a Swiss group of farmers specifically come to spend time on our farm and that was a result of our website window to the world. They still look online every month. That is one way we are challenging a wider audience.

“I don't think our family is unique. I think we are one of many family farms in New Zealand progressing positively.

“The deer industry is positive. We have been farming for 21 years and I have attended a number deer and a sheep conferences over the years, and every year I come back to put up more six foot high fences.

“We bought the farm off my parents as a sheep farm.

We always liked deer so purchased a few. Seventeen years in we fenced off 200ha and increased the herd number substantially and now we are doing another 60ha.

“The deer have consistently rewarded us but most years the sheep have not rewarded us enough.

“The irony is, in having our best wool ever, we will get the worst payout this year.” The Matthews family also won the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award.