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Te Teringa Farms Ltd
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Future Proofing the Family Farm

John Channing, December 2021

The Bellamy Farm story - Te Puke, BOP

This month Wilma and I had the privilege of visiting Paul and Rita Bellamy’s farm which is situated up behind Te Puke on Clark Road at an altitude of 200M.
As you enter this beautiful property, first impressions say it all:

A second generation family farm the original 640 acres was purchased by Paul’s dad in 1973. Paul and his brother, Richard first leased the farm off dad then bought half each in 1981. After selling off a few unusable pieces Paul and Rita currently own 98ha (240 acres).

Being a keen hunter, Paul was attracted to deer farming and got on board in the early days farming 400 fallow deer in the 1980s. Why fallow; because they were cheap and able to be sourced locally. According to Paul definitely a young man’s game and after 10 years gave up the deer. He was also frustrated by his failure to tame the fallow deer even with breeding they still retained their wild genes.

Pretty much retired now, Paul and Rita have 2.5ha of kiwifruit and run 50 yearlings and weaners. Did I say retired? You can hardly ever call yourself retired if you have land, animals and trees and grew up in the DIY farming world.

At 98ha the challenge is the property is too small to fit easily into current farming methodology, even as a dairy run-off it is too small.

Paul describes himself as a ‘tree hugger greenie at heart... without being fanatical’ and right from the beginning they planted in 1982 Radiata pines and 1984 diversified into Blackwood’s and Eucalyptus regnans. And so a pattern was set, planting what Paul could get his hands on each winter and once they matured harvesting the radiata to provide a reasonably regular income.

Over the years blocks of lusitanica, lawsoniana, redwoods, paulownia, macrocarpa and others were added to the mix providing the farm with a most attractive diversity.

New radiata plantings in the foreground with Kiwifruit to the left, paulownia centre and Eucs to the right.

In the beginning Paul was acting from his passion; planting, planting, planting. Paul and Rita did all the planting themselves. Planting contractors could not be afforded in those days.

Now looking back, he and Rita see the excellent position the property has evolved into as a resource for their four children heading into the future. Unlike stock which must be managed on a daily basis, the trees can just stand there and wait for the right opportunity to come along.

In these very unsettled days where any attempt to predict the future would be foolish, it does pay to have something that can just stand and wait, while all the time adding value to the land. Paul’s desire is to ‘leave the place better than we found it’. He and Rita have certainly achieved that.

Next step is to put the farm into a family trust and forego the trap of being forced to sell the farm because the kids want the money on the one hand and don’t have a need for the land right now.
As Paul said to me, you can never buy back land once you sell it; gone is gone forever. The challenge in this climate is to transcend the short-term view that we cash up the farm and take the money.

Hopefully the time will come when we see that the intrinsic value of land, especially land so loved, so clothed in trees as the Bellamy Farm, is worth more than any monetary value. In the meantime, putting farms into family trusts does hold out its best hope to survive short term greed.

So what is next for Paul and Rita?
Coming from the old DIY school of farming, Paul and his son have plans to set up a portable saw mill and organise themselves to mill trees selectively while maintaining a permanent cover and fulfilling on the requirements for inclusion in the ETS scheme as permanent forest.

The shed is up, (providing unintended shelter for the stock) the sawmill rails set
and the saw waiting in the background to be installed.

As Paul pointed out there is no viable market at present for selling timber trees other than radiata but that does not exclude the DIY option of milling it yourself, using it yourself or selling to the locals. Again there is no short term fix for a market place that is not organised to buy the beautiful timber that adorns the farm. But as I already said, trees are patient and who knows when the future will come to its senses???

Meanwhile trees always have something to offer; in Paul’s case it is to cut 50 trailer loads of firewood each year to support their philanthropic cause which is sending aid to a mission in Indonesia. There is no end to the good that comes from trees once they exist.

The tree splitting operation. Casurina slabs in the foreground; firewood doesn’t
come any better than that.

Starting forty years ago, early inspiration came from Farm Forestry and in particular the initiatives of Geoff and Gill Brann. Another most valuable inspiration for Paul back then was John & Bunny Mortimer’s book; Trees for the NZ Countryside – A planters guide It seems out of print at the moment but second-hand copies are available.

Forty years later, Paul has a wealth of knowledge and experiences to share. It has not been all plain sailing, especially for the deciduous plantings. Paul believes his property is in a flight path for the bronze beetle who have been regularly taking out the deciduous trees once they get to about 3M high, cleaning them out in the spring. And of course, the possums too have a fondness for fresh deciduous growth.
The paulownia too have their issues contracting Armillaria root rot from the adjacent Kiwifruit orchard. And then there are the macrocarpa trees… Paul planted them at the encouragement of a builder friend who so loved the wood for building with.

Paul’s macrocarpa trees are no exception and have succumbed to canker. No
harm in trying!

There is no other way than to ‘give things a go’ and that is just what Paul has been doing over the years.  This is one superb property for a Field Day and Paul has a lifetime of knowledge to share.


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