SLUI case study in the Ruapehu district

There is no doubt that our Region’s hill country supports countless livelihoods through the likes of sheep and beef, forestry and Mānuka production. Horizons’ Sustainable Land Use Initiative (SLUI) helps farmers by providing advice and support to benefit the environment, production rates and the Region as a whole. 

Grant and Sandra McMillan of Ongarue have been part of the SLUI family since 2013. Owners of a 365 hectare hill country sheep and beef farm, the McMillians have always sought best practice on farm in both production and caring for the environment.

Horizons land management advisor Weston Brown says prior to coming on board with SLUI the McMillans were looking at what the dairy industry was going through and where the public’s environmental expectations where heading. 

“They were aware that this focus could turn to sheep and beef, or any area of farming, as well. So wanting to make sure they were being proactive, they engaged with Horizons to be as sustainable as possible,” he says. 

As a result the McMillans got in touch with Horizons and had a Whole Farm Plan undertaken. These plans are provided free of charge, map the farm and identify opportunities to take action. As a result of the farm planning process the McMillans have chosen to fence 2.94 kilometres of stream and plant 1,705 natives, and 590 poplar and willow poles. These works have been subsidised by Horizons under the SLUI programme. 

Grant McMillan says the Whole Farm Plan provided the opportunity to have greater engagement with Horizons and its experts.

“The plan has given us an enormous amount of information about our farm to help us operate smarter and more sustainably in today’s environment. It’s helped to give us that longer term vision.

“We believe we should be farming in a way that any member of the public can turn up unexpectedly and look at what we are doing and we can be proud of what we have to show them,” he says. 

Sandra McMillan says while a lot of time and resources have gone into undertaking sustainable practices on the farm, it’s worth it.

“Not only are their environmental benefits, there’s also aesthetic appeal to see all the fenced and planted riparian areas. It feels good to see your hard work performing.”

The McMillans are constantly looking for further ways to improve their practices and their efforts were recognised by the Ballance Farm Environmental Award judges with a runner up placing in 2016. They look forward to keeping Horizons engaged in their farm.

“We have found that Horizons staff always have plenty of time for us and are happy to help us with our plans. We hope to continue this relationship in the future as Horizons has the information and expertise to help us make better decisions.”