It's a new record for central North Island dairy processor Miraka: the highest number of its farms gained a perfect score in its Te Ara Miraka Programme this year.

The iwi-owned company says the result shows its focus on sustainable farming practices is delivering returns and this year's result came despite a challenging dry summer.

The five farms with the perfect scores and 18 others were recognised at the organisation's annual awards ceremony.

"We have been running the awards for four years now, and each year we've seen significant improvements," says Grant Jackson, Miraka's general manager of milk supply.

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"We're asking farmers to raise the bar and strive for excellence in a wide range of areas including animal welfare, sustainable land management and supporting staff. This is about more than just meeting regulations. Our goal is to show what's possible and to become true leaders in the industry."

Eighteen of the 101 participating farms in the Te Ara Miraka Programme achieved 90 per cent or more, and Papatangi, Sandel Ridge, Arataki, Glengour and Chamberlin Trust got 100 per cent. Just 10 farms achieved more than 90 per cent when the awards began four years ago.

The excellence standards in the programme include a mix of mandatory and optional criteria, which are allocated points and results incentivised over and above the base milk price.

Miraka is an iwi-owned dairy processor based north-west of Taupō. Photo / Supplied
Miraka is an iwi-owned dairy processor based north-west of Taupō. Photo / Supplied

Wayne Chamberlin of Chamberlin Trust Farm says achieving the top score was a challenge.

"The Te Ara Miraka framework is good as it keeps you on your toes. It incentivises you to keep striving and stay focused right through the season, and new measures are added each year. Miraka's approach aligns well with our own philosophy on the farm. We firmly believe that if you look after the land and the animals, they will look after you."

Phillip Samuels of Papatangi Farm has been with Miraka since it began. Papatangi is one of five farms owned by the Te Raparahi Lands Trust, and all five farms achieved an excellence score of 90 per cent or more this season.

"We're really proud to be suppliers to Miraka. They are proactive to deal with and have a genuinely personal approach. We never feel like we are being held back. Miraka encourages us to be innovative, to get out there and make things happen," says Samuels.

Japie Nortje of Arataki Farms Ltd has also been with Miraka from the start.

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"We've been pushing hard to achieve the top mark in the Te Ara Miraka programme. Each year something small would trip us up, so we're really pleased we made it this year. For us it's about putting in place the systems and getting everyone in the team involved. With a bit of guidance and support I believe that farmers can start achieving results like these right across the industry," says Japie.

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Miraka chief executive Richard Wyeth says the company's goal is to become the most sustainable dairy company in the world.

"Achieving this goal starts at the farm, through the hard work and dedication of our farm supply whānau. By supporting them to apply environmentally sound practices we are helping to create climate-resilient farms that produce some of the highest quality milk in the world," he says.

The Te Ara Miraka programme is looking to include a more dynamic approach to assessment in the future, recognising that there are a number of ways to achieve outcomes that benefit the land, the animals and the people, while producing world-class milk.