January 27, 2023

Our People – Gill and Kevin Adshead

Gill and Kevin Adshead are the epitome of embracing the opportunity to partner with the Kaipara Moana Remediation Programme to the health of their farmland – and that of the Kaipara Harbour.

With their 1300 hectare property backing on to the Kaipara Moana – Mataia Farm has been in the Gardner family since 1868 – they have a significant area of shoreline and feel compelled to play their part in the Kaipara Moana Remediation Programme’s kaupapa to protect even more of their waterways.

That means utilising KMR funding – which they will match dollar for dollar to keep up their side of the partnership – to fence off many kilometres of drains, waterways and gullies.

The couple sure have sure paved a way for environmental restoration that can be a lesson for us all.

It was after a two year sabbatical in the Solomon Islands in the early 2000s that they returned to their family farm near Glorit (on the Kaipara Coast Highway) and with a new-found perspective on looking after the land. Flying to Honiara they could see the mess the felling of trees was making and realised there is a need to manage native bush.

Gill, a teacher, and Kevin, combined to put their practical skills to work in the Solomon’s and built a library for a local community, along with finishing the house that locals started building for them. Based at a remote boarding school, their location was a 5.5 hour walk from civilisation and required crossing eight rivers or taking a canoe along the coast

But it was while sourcing building products that they saw the immense damage to the landscape from the felling of native trees – and the subsequent murky waters in nearby shorelines and harbours courtesy of sediment run off.

They didn’t like it and feared it could happen on and around the family farm so that foreign adventure completely changed their outlook on farming and life.

“We realised we needed very little in life when it comes to possessions. After seeing the pollution there we decided we needed to come home and do a whole lot more to look after our land. We realised we had to start reversing the trend of bush being degraded.”

That’s when, in 2005 they set about giving back to the land through an array of environmental initiatives and plenty of their own hard work and financial investment. They now live off grid in a large bush block and love the simplicity.

With the help of friends and family the couple have made a concerted effort since 2005 to protect the land, retiring more than 400ha of the property which is covered in native species – with more to be added. Dozens of kilometres of fencing has been put in to protect waterways, gullies, swamps, wetlands, bush blocks and the shoreline of the Kaipara Harbour. A further 23km of fencing is planned, along with plenty more native planting days!

More than 7,500 native trees have been planted every year since 2005, and those efforts are supported by intensive farm-wide pest and predator control. Heading into 2023, 150,000 native trees have been planted on their property.

Where there was once bare ground there are Nikau Palms and abundant bird life (including North Island brown kiwi) which spurs them on to do more. They also realise so many people around New Zealand are doing their bit for the environment and they say being part of Sanctuaries of New Zealand helps them learn from other link-minded folk.

Their wok and passion is a clear personal commitment to the environment, which was also the driver to establish The Forest Bridge Trust in.

The vision of The Forest Bridge Trust is to create a connected landscape of healthy forest and flourishing indigenous wildlife from the Kaipara Harbour in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east – by protecting, enhancing and connecting.

And much like the Trust’s kaupapa of supporting farmers and landowners as they work toward setting and achieving environmental goals for their properties, the couple see KMR doing the same.

“We have ten years to finish what we set out to do but sometimes feel like we are running out of time and energy! The results are stunning and we love sharing the farm with people. People who plant here have ownership too and when we show them the results of their efforts they feel so proud.”

And the pair firmly believe the outcome of the KMR kaupapa will be the same for all involved in years to come.

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