SOUTHLAND will host the National Sustainability Showcase of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards for the first time at the end of this month.
Up to 400 people will attend a gala dinner at the Ascot Park Hotel in Invercargill on Wednesday, May 31.
Eleven award ceremonies have already been held throughout the country and each regional supreme winner has been invited to the showcase to be considered for the Gordon Stephenson Trophy – named in honour of Waikato farmer and noted conservationist the late Gordon Stephenson.
The supreme winner representing Southland is Glenham sheep and dairy grazing farmers David, Alanna and Julie Clarke.
The awards programme is run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust. Chairman Simon Saunders said the event was a great opportunity to celebrate what the supreme winners had achieved and “showcase the primary sector and food production happening in the deep south”.
Mr Saunders said it was exciting to have the showcase in his home region for the first time.
Mr Saunders balances his chairman’s role with running a 1400ha sheep and beef property, Stag Valley, at Castlerock, near Lumsden.
“This is the perfect chance to promote all the positive and exciting things happening here in Southland and across New Zealand’s primary industry. Farming is under closer scrutiny all the time. A display of all the good things we’re doing is needed more than ever this year.”
The Farm Environment Trust seeks to promote leadership in environmental excellence and encourage management practices which both protect and enhance the environment and add value to farming businesses and communities.
“The national winner is more of an ambassadorial role for New Zealand agriculture,” Mr Saunders said.
“The showcase is an opportunity for each regional winner to profile their commitment to sustainable farming to a wider audience. The Gordon Stephenson Trophy is given on the basis the recipient’s farming system and personal beliefs around sustainability are worthy of both national and international promotion.”
The trophy will be presented by Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy.
As a national award it is separate to the regional programme and judged under a different criteria. Two national judges visit each regional supreme winner on their property to confirm information from the regional feedback report and get a more in-depth understanding of the people in their own environment.
At the showcase event they will be interviewed by a panel of judges to cover entrants’ wider understanding of the primary sector, current issues and personal beliefs.
The awards are open to any business making its living from the soil – from agriculture, horticulture or viticulture.