Winnng an award for keeping his farm predator-free, Dannevirke farmer Simon Hales broke into his speech to add "Also, I'm a hunter".

Hales and his wife Trudy have a 970ha sheep and beef farm and were supreme winners at the Horizons Region Ballance Farm Environment Awards on March 14 at Palmerston North. It was a swanky evening, with three MPs, three mayors and three Horizons regional councillors attending.

The predator-free award, presented by Mavis Mullins, was just one of the Hales' trophies.

"We live on the back of a huge block of native bush and forestry. It's a never ending battle, looking after the native flora and fauna on the property," Simon Hales said.


Luckily he enjoys going after the goats, deer and pigs that stray across the boundary.

The pair also won awards for their relationships with people, their livestock care, their business management and their stewardship. The livestock one made them especially happy.

"This is the award we were hoping to take home and we can't tell you how happy we are to be holding this for the next 12 months."

Judges were impressed by their exclusion of stock from the Akitio River as it flows through their farm, and their partnership in a co-operative harvesting high UMF honey.

They go to Hamilton in June, to compete against 10 others for the national award.

The Hales were one of eight entrants in the awards - three sheep and beef farms, three dairy and two mixed. Judges whittled the eight down to five finalists.

Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis and her husband Michael have a dairy farm near Eketahuna and won the DairyNZ stewardship award.

Whanganui farmer Tim Matthews presented the Margaret Matthews Award for Commitment to Sustainability to Hunterville sheep and beef farmers James and Virginia Kilmister. The bought their farm in 2004, not long after the "February floods".


"Our farm was a bomb site. It was just totally wrecked. We are not going to be here much longer if we don't do anything about it," James Kilmister decided.

They have invested in Wools of New Zealand, and are about to sign a contract to supply lambs' wool used in aeroplane upholstery - rather than its usual use for wool carpets.

"We should be taxing synthetic products like carpets," he said.

That got applause from the audience.

Another couple who won several awards were Ian and Kylie Brown, who manage an intensive livestock finishing, dairy support and cropping farm near Feilding. They got an award for innovation, and use a drone to monitor lambing, feed supply and water troughs.

Marton couple Sam and Philippa Trotter breed sheep, finish beef and graze dairy cattle on their 342ha farm. They came in for some attention for the high weight gains by dairy heifers they graze in conjunction with Wanganui Veterinary Services.

The awards night is part of New Zealand AgriFood Week, along with the Central Districts Field Days. One of the repeated themes was the need to tell good farming stories, in order to counteract bad publicity about farming.

Ballance Agri-Nutrients is a major sponsor, and sales manager Jason Minkhorst made that point right at the start.

"The kumara doesn't speak about its sweetness - but we need to be louder and prouder. We all know the Forest and Bird and Greenpeace story - but they don't know your story."