Bill and Sue Garland

Waikato sheep and beef farmer Bill Garland has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for services to farming and conservation.

Bill is deputy chairman for the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust, a founding trustee of the Mt Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust, and chairman of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards national management committee. He is also a former member of both the Waikato Conservation Board and the Animal Health Board, and was president of Waikato Federated Farmers (1990-92).

Mr Garland says he and his wife Sue were fortunate to have been brought up on farms where there was an appreciation of conservation values. Bill's father, Rex, recognised the value of retaining pockets of forest in areas less suitable for livestock farming.

The trend at the time was to take up government incentives to clear and develop as much land as possible. Instead, Rex legally protected an area of his bush under a Queen Elizabeth II National Trust Covenant, the sixteenth QEII covenant in New Zealand. Rex Garland’s ashes have been spread in an area of the protected bush. As Sue says, “He’s still parked up there, keeping an eye on what we’re up to.”

Bill and Sue combine the same love of the land, trees and native forest into their philosophy of sustainable land management on their farm. They have already fenced 40ha of forest fragments, which cover almost 10 per cent of their 420ha property on the western flanks of Mt Maungatautari near Cambridge.

The mountain is covered in native mangeao and tawa forest, with nikau, pukatea, rimu and pigeonwood. Fragments of this original forest extend down into the Garlands’ “Rahiri Farm”, and Bill and Sue have continued Rex Garland’s legacy of retaining pockets of forest in areas less suitable for livestock farming.

Many years ago they noticed that their unfenced fragments were rapidly deteriorating. Canopy trees were dying because of stock trampling, and there were no seedlings or saplings to replace them. Bill and Sue fenced most of the fragments and their children each adopted one, reducing weeds and animal pests, and planting native seedlings.

Weed control is built into the annual farm work plan, and Bill’s efforts have seen native bush regenerate quickly inside fenced areas.

The Garland’s forest fragments also provide a visual barrier between bulls in adjacent paddocks, reducing stock aggression. They keep stock out of bush areas, reducing erosion and making mustering easier, and provide shade and shelter for livestock in adjacent paddocks.

Bill and Sue Garland are passionate about their land, the mountain that overlooks their property, and the native plants and animals that live there. They are managing Rahiri Farm so that it remains at least as productive for future generations as it has been for them.

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