NZ's first carbon-positive farm aiming to inspire others to put environment first

Lake Hawea Statin runs almost 10,000 Merino sheep and 200 Angus cows.
Lake Hawea Statin runs almost 10,000 Merino sheep and 200 Angus cows. Photo credit: Supplied

The owners of New Zealand's first carbon-positive farm are hoping to prove to other farmers looking after the environment doesn't need to come at the expense of profits.

Lake Hawea Station recently had its carbon footprint certified by Toitū Envirocare.

The 6500 hectare farm is owned by Geoff and Justine Ross, who are better known as founders of the successful 42 Below vodka brand, and runs almost 10,000 Merino sheep and 200 Angus cows.

Justine told Magic Talk's Rural Today everyone on the farm is "absolutely ecstatic" with the certification.

"It's just a real privilege and the apex of two years of work," she told host Dominic George on Friday.

"We're absolutely delighted to be New Zealand's first carbon-positive farm."

She said although the farm is currently around two-times carbon positive, there were plans to improve on that number even more in the future.

"We set ourselves a goal about two years ago of being 10-times carbon positive, so your carbon profile is a journey and it's a spectrum and we're very fortunate to be sitting at just over two-times at the moment."

Although for many farmers calculating on-farm carbon emissions may feel like just another thing to do when there are already so many other priorities, Justine insists "it wasn't that hard" to get certified and says the efforts pay off in the long-run.

"It's our belief that the green credentials of our country absolutely translate to profitability no matter what sector you're in but especially in the primary sector.

"And so our transition into farming, or back into farming for Geoff who was born and bred on a farm, has allowed us to demonstrate there's a clear correlation between green credentials and profitability - and we're now absolutely commanding a premium for our carbon-clear food and fibre."

And she believes any farmer with the will to succeed can follow their example.

"All that we did was first have the will to want to get our number and then partner with the right people, Toitū  - and there are other providers as well but Toitū were fantastic - and really sit down in the wool shed and really do the numbers, do the math, go through the exercise. The templates just need to work with tools that already exist and have the will to do it - and then there is a premium to be gained from going through that process."

Justine says New Zealand has a great opportunity right now to become the "regenerative garden of the Earth" and in doing so increase the value of our primary sector.

"It's so important that we don't squander this opportunity as a country," she says.

"It's our hope that we can motivate our fellow farmers very quickly to find their number and then to command a premium so that they can be rewarded for the extraordinary efforts that are already happening on farms up and down New Zealand."