Rick Braddock - Environment

The once weedy and pest-infested pastures of Motutapu Island in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf have undergone an incredible transformation.

Where wallabies once grazed, 20 takahe now forage; where soil was stripped of nutrients, plant roots now reach deep into the earth, creating self-sustaining pasture.

Over a period of more than 20 years, Rick Braddock - leaseholder of the 1340ha farm - has brought a biological and natural approach to farming.

As deputy chair of the Motutapu Island Restoration Trust and a member of a multitude of other farming and environmental entities, he has helped eradicate pests and weeds, introduce native birds and set up a nursery for native flora.

Advertisement

He has encouraged urban youth, particularly urban Maori, to take up the baton of biofarming and in particular to take over the Motutapu Island farm lease one day.

To facilitate this, he set up scholarships in conjunction with Ngai Tai ki Tamaki Tribal Trust to train urban Maori at Taratahi Agricultural Centre in Wairarapa.

It's this dedication to biofarming, and his enthusiasm for a next generation of farmers, that has led to Mr Braddock's nomination.

"Rick is determined Motutapu be a prime example of how environmental protection and profitable farming need not be mutually exclusive," said his nominator.

Auckland-based Mr Braddock, while agriculturally trained, did not originate from farming stock.

Knowing he would be financially constrained, he decided to lease land rather than buying it.

When Motutapu was advertised, he saw it as an opportunity to get into a "reasonably sizeable farming proposition without having to own the property".

The first years were tough and money was lost.

Through this process he became interested in environmental outcomes for pastoral farming.

"I was interested in how to get biology of soil working better so that ultimately it becomes it's own cycle and doesn't require the same level of input," he said.

"Root depth is really important.

"Climatic change is showing drier summers, so we want to encourage plants to seek out new nutrients and grow deeper, rather than them waiting for nutrients to be dumped on top.

"Then [the plants] become stronger, more drought resistant."

Mr Braddock has seen a shift in consumer behaviour with companies and individuals alike willing to pay a premium for quality products.

He envisages a biofarmed red meat industry to have a similar effect on the collective psyche as free-range chicken has had.

Mr Braddock's approach to agriculture is having a wider effect on farming in New Zealand and is considered a living example of what is possible, his nominator said.

The Pride of New Zealand Awards are proudly brought to you by The New Zealand Herald, The Hits and TSB Bank.
Nominations for the 2015 awards have now closed.
To see more stories of our wonderful nominees click here.
For more information on the awards go to the official website.