Greener pastures

Whangara Farms is part of a worldwide Flagship Farmer intiative, whose aim is to promote sustainability.

Nestled beside the sea on the East Coast near Gisborne, Whangara Farms is a hive of sustainability.

The 5600 hectare property formed in 2006 when two neighbouring Māori-owned farms, Pakarae A and Whangara B5, combined. Whangara quickly became one of New Zealand’s leading beef farms and is a benchmark for sustainable beef farming not only in New Zealand but worldwide.

With an ever-expanding vision, Whangara Farms grew when it purchased Tongataha block in 2010. The farm continued to grow in 2015 when Tapuwae Whitiwhiti joined the partnership and the total area of the beef farm became 8500ha. 

Led by farm manager Richard Scholefield, a major sustainability development programme was started in 2007 and focused on water, fertiliser use, genetics and infrastructure. Over the last seven years, $7 million has been invested in development and infrastructure projects on the property. An additional $250,000 has been set aside for Land Environment Plans, which outline clear environmental objectives and deliverables.

Land Enviroment Plans are key to the future of Whangara Farms, meaning sustainability plays a central role in operational and strategic decisions. The plans take into account care of waterways and tributaries, as well as tree-planting targets
in areas at risk of erosion, and requirements around the retirement of marginal coastland. 

In addition, with support from Beef + Lamb New Zealand, McDonald’s and Silver Fern Farms, a sustainable farming model has been created for Whangara Farms, which measures and benchmarks farm sustainability across key areas of the business through a piloted farm assessment tool. The model captures the environmental priorities and goals of Whangara Farms, resulting in resource management in a sustainable and scientifically based manner. Not only does this operational model reduce the farm’s environmental footprint, it also allows the farm to run more efficiently as a business. In fact, the model is so successful that Whangara Farms economic surplus is 60 per cent higher than comparable farms in the region.

The assessment software aims to provide visibility and transparency to the customer and demonstrate the sustainability of the beef produced.

Whangara Farms market their beef through Silver Fern Farms to McDonald’s in New Zealand as well as throughout Asia and the USA. Investment in the model was imperative to McDonald’s, as the company looks to promote sustainable food production through its Flagship Farmer initiative. Flagship Farmers are selected worldwide and are recognised as leaders in sustainable practices that have economic, environmental and ethical benefits.

The facts

  • Whangara Farms: total area 8500 hectares
  • 2500 Angus breeding cows, 300 breeding heifers, 4750 rearing/finishing cattle, 60,000 sheep


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