Okoia foresters Hamish Randle and Rachel Rose were well rewarded for their efforts this week, taking home the young farm forester of the year award at the NZ Farm Forestry Association (NZFFA) annual conference in Rotorua.

"The Michael Hay Memorial Award is a huge honour," Randle said.

"It's pretty humbling actually. We've only been on our land for a bit more than a year but we've got stuck into the planting and planning and I think the association valued that."

The award was accompanied by a $5000 cheque to go towards their forestry establishment costs.


The couple are not your regular forest owners; instead of radiata, they are focused on planting alternative species that yield much higher value timber. Last year they planted Tasmanian blackwood, which they say is regarded by many as the world's finest joinery timber. They also have a particular interest in naturally ground durable eucalypts, with several species already planted and more going in this winter. They are doing all the planting themselves.

Their farm is 28ha of rolling to steep land, previously a pastoral farm. Formal land use assessment by Horizons Regional Council indicated the property was very suitable for forestry. Slip scars from the June 2015 weather event are still visible.

Randle, 30, works as a saw miller and general hand at MacBlack timber, a specialist timber merchant. He's gained a wide range of skills on the job, from thinning, pruning and felling high-value trees, through to milling, grading and selling the timber.

The couple are enthusiastic members of NZFFA and say they have learnt "tonnes" from the members of the Middle District branch.

"We hosted a field day at our farm earlier this month and it was brilliant to get their feedback," Rose said.

"Farm foresters are never shy with their opinions and we've got our ears open. Our job is to weigh up that advice and experience according to our own situation - our climate, our soils, the other unique characteristics of our farm. And also our vision, of what we want to achieve."