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Up country . . . Rob Stokes (left), chats to his Lees Valley farm manager Tim Sowman. Photo: Supplied

By DAVID HILL

Proposed new regulations are creating a headache for farmers trying to do the right thing by the environment, the Federated Farmers’ high country chairman says.

Rob Stokes would like central government and the Department of Conservation (DOC) to work alongside farmers instead of imposing “unworkable” regulations.

Pastoral lease submissions were due by late November, while proposed regulations around freshwater and biodiversity would take away “our opportunity to develop”.

“The whole freshwater policy is unworkable. If they had a plan they wouldn’t be going back all the time to rejig it,” Mr Stokes says.

Under the proposed low-slope maps prepared for the new stock exclusion rules, 80 percent of his 2500 hectare Lees Valley property, near Oxford, would be considered to be “under the low slope, which isn’t quite correct”.

“We are looking at probably 40% (low slope). The rest is high country and that’s the way we’ve farmed it _ not too intensive.”

The recent Ohau fires were an example of where farmers felt their concerns, around “fuel loading” were being ignored.

But Mr Stokes was hopeful DOC, Fire and Emergency New Zealand, Land Information New Zealand and Federated Farmers would soon be meeting “in the same room so we can get a plan together”.

“We want something in place in the next couple of weeks and I think DOC do as well. It’s not great publicity for them.”

Mr Stokes and his wife, Julie, employ Tim Sowman to run their Lees Valley property. They also have properties at Oxford and Amberley.

There are two full-time staff at Lees Valley and “we bounce around in between and muck in with the baling and tractor work”, he says.

“It’s a breeding unit, with pretty much all young stock finished finished at Lees Valley and the rest are sent to our blocks at Oxford and Amberley.”

The Stokes family’s Richon Partnership farms 8000 stock units of Perendale sheep and Hereford cattle, with low stocking rates at Lees Valley. “We’ve farmed like that for 100 years.

“We are third generation. My grandfather bought it and my father was there for 50 years, and we took it over in 1995 and farmed it in partnership with my parents until they retired into Oxford about five or six years ago.”

The Perendales have been lambing at 140% and it has been a mixed spring so far, he says.

“The weather has been pretty good on the whole, but it’s been a funny old spring and it’s starting to get a bit dry. It’s a bit like the North Canterbury of old, with the northwesterlies.

“We just need a bit more moisture and plenty of sun.”

The bull calves from the Richon Hereford stud are grazed at Amberley until sale time, alongside the Beechwood Hereford stud bull calves, owned by Rob and Mary Ann Burrows.

The Richon and Beechwood studs hold two sales a year in partnership for yearling and two-year-old bulls.

While the sale in June was reasonably successful, Mr Stokes says this month’s sale was a “struggle”. “We didn’t have the interest we normally have, but we will sell them privately and hopefully get them off the farm in November.”