Business Rural Spring 2021

| 21 Wilding pines a growing challenge Richard Loader MEAT & WOOL » Ben Dhu Station: Hamish & Pip Smith F or the last fifteen years Hamish and Pip Smith have been on a mission to develop their North Otago sheep, beef and deer property into a productive family farm. Gaelic for ‘Dark Hills’, Ben Dhu is a 3500 hectare south facing high-country farm a few kilometres west of Omarama that offers a slow spring but the promise of grass that hangs on during the summer months. An extensive investment in time and money has seen significant subdivisional work, fencing paddocks off and working the land up, with another 100 hectares of deer fencing added. But by far the biggest challenge for Hamish and Pip has been the battle against wilding pines on their property, a battle that has continued to wage for the last dozen years. “We’re talking three hundred hectares of wilding pines here,” says Hamish. “We had to cultivate ground, ploughing the wilding pines in to make the land more productive and stop the spread of trees, planting a dryland cocksfoot lucerne mix.” Over the last five years Ecan and MPI have also been on board sharing the Smith’s investment, aerial spraying 150 hectares of established pinus contorta in an effort to eradicate the seed source. “That aerial spraying effort is ongoing. Contorta is a prolific seeder and grows so quickly. But the Government is trying to pull the funding on that now. All this money that’s been spent and they’re just going to waste that and what has already been done. So there’s been a lot investment in develop- ment both in effort and money. But that’s farming. If you’re not actively develop- ing you’re going backwards.” Looking to the future, Hamish can see more challenges on the way for High Country farmers having to deal with the raft of environmental issues heading their way. “All the environmental rules and regulations are going to be a massive challenge for some of these extensive farm properties. For me to fence the creek, there’s over twelve kilometres of deer fenc- ing and that’s just not viable to do. It’s a flood plane and it will get washed out. “Then there are wetlands that we will have to fence off, which are predominantly our balance of country in a dry time where we don’t have irriga- tion. That’s how we survive in this kind of environ- ment.” Hamish looks back at what he and his family have already achieved on Ben Dhu with pride, say- ing he gets huge satisfaction seeing the property’s transformation into productive land and a produc- tive family business. A trained primary school teacher who provides relief teaching at a local school, Pip looks after the office side of the business and provides meals for staff. The couple have two children; Harry 16 and Suzie 14. “Harry is in Year 12 at high school and has his heart absolutely set on farming. He loves the high country, has his own dogs and is very capable. Suzie really enjoys working with animals. We only bought our farm in 2006 but we’re putting our best into it so that hopefully we can give family a chance to carry it on. The inter-generational legacy has to start somewhere.” “That aerial spraying effort is ongoing. Contorta is a prolific seeder and grows so quickly. But the Government is trying to pull the funding on that now.” Merino rams grazing the tussock country at Ben Dhu. Photo: Mark Clinton. Are proud to provide accounting, tax and business advisory services for Ben Dhu Station Partners: Paul Wolffenbu�el, Craig Copland, Nick Krivan, Kalpesh Hari, Mark Evans Consultant: Duncan Brand, John Stark 39 George Street, Timaru 7910 | PO Box 125, Timaru 7940 | Email: Phone: 03 687 9222 | Website: PHONE 027 433 5523 DAVID O'NEILL CONTRACTING LTD Proud to be associated with Ben Dhu Station • PLOUGHING & CULTIVATION • FINE CHOPPED SILAGE • MULCHING • FERTILISER SPREADING • DIRECT DRILLING • GENERAL CARTAGE • BALAGE • RUT BUSTING • GRAIN HARVESTING Ben Dhu Stations Hamish Smith examines a fleece with son Harry (16) and daughter Suzie (14). Hamish moving a mob of Merino rams.