A man ahead of his time

PIONEER: Jim Campbell from Awapapa Station on the Tiniroto Road was a visionary who understood sustainable land management. Picture supplied
Awapapa Station
Awapapa Station

A pioneer, a man with vision who knew about sensible and prosperous land use, a passionate farmer and self-made man — that was Jim Campbell

He farmed Awapapa Station on the Tiniroto Road and had a lot of the right ideas when it comes to how the Government’s plan to plant a billion trees could be implemented. He only farmed Awapapa for 22 years but the impact he made was huge.

“Dad’s Scottish heritage and hard upbringing brought out a rather eccentric approach compared to the average East Coast traditionalist,” said his son Alex, who, with his wife Megen, now manages Awapapa.

“The gold he left was in the standards and examples he set for the next generations to follow.

“Dad’s vision had a lot going for it when it comes to ‘the billion trees’ scenario.”

Awapapa is a 360 hectare hill country sheep and beef property specialising in bull finishing, with at least 35 percent tree canopy of about 40 hectares retired in pine and redwoods. The remainder is in space-planted poplar.

“Dad was a strong advocate of alternative species and saw Radiata in many cases as too short a rotation, creating too much damage and cost at harvesting.”

Some pine woodlots on Awapapa have now been replaced with redwoods.

“The stumps never die which is rather important on very unstable land,” Alex said.

Awapapa produces very respectable livestock returns, compared to district averages, and those returns have been greatly enhanced through the marketing of trees, he said.

As with pine woodlots, Jim Campbell was focused on pruning poplar.

Awapapa exported 400 tonnes of pruned poplar to China in 2013, destined to be used for chopsticks, and that was just the beginning.

Jim was brought up in Southland and started his career at Ocean Beach freezing works where he saved enough to pay for a series 1 Landrover and caravan, with which he went contract fencing around Southland.

He accumulated a deposit to secure Awapapa Station via a Lands and Survey ballot settlement at the age of 40 in 1967.

He and wife Isobel and their four young children left the home town comforts of Southland and came to the unknown hills of Gisborne.

“Dad was someone who sought to be independent and bring his family up in an environment built on his own foundation.

“He had an inventive approach and always an open mind on how things could be made or done better.

“Dad had a great respect for nature, land, trees, good livestock and quite importantly prosperity within all of that,” Alex said.

“He had a wealth of respect and knowledge of things such as livestock psychology, wildlife behaviour, stars, moon, cloud formations, atmospheric influences on weather, and the beauty of trees to enhance the landscape.

“He always played an active part in supporting a prosperous community, a strong and successful government and teaching others good values.”

While working in Southland he founded the Northern Southland Farm Forestry Association.

Awapapa in 1967 consisted of 12 paddocks of bare hills and apart from buildings, the entire plant consisted of one horse.

“It was a huge challenge, however, it was one that Dad grasped with enthusiasm, and soon it was obvious it was a great farming area, with good climate, fertile soil but rather prone to erosion in adverse rain events.”

He quickly got support from the Department of Agriculture to improve farm production, with the focus on improved subdivision, better grazing systems and improved breeding.

Border Leicester rams were introduced to form a flock of Coopworth ewes. He was at the forefront of bringing composite breeding into a district where traditional Romneys were lambing 100 percent.

“Very quickly the Awapapa lambing percentage jumped to 125 percent, which was a rather stand-out result in this district.”

Pre-lamb shearing was another initiative that made him look rather radical at the time.

Jim was also quick to enlist the support of the Hawke’s Bay Catchment Board to form a sustainable land management programme with the vision for a rather massive transformation of his land.

“Primarily it was to protect the hillsides from erosion and create an environment that enhanced welfare of the livestock.

“Although it was a ‘green’ approach Dad was a realist and focused on incorporating prosperity into a sustainable land management plan.”

At the outset a small block of Radiata was planted on unproductive land for future income. Existing native bush was fenced off to protect regeneration.

“Many small pockets of alternative species — redwood, Douglas fir, Tasmanian blackwood, macrocarpa and cedar — were also planted.

“However, the main drive on Awapapa was the potential for poplar to support and sustain livestock production.”

Jim Campbell was at the forefront of planting new hybrids with potential to harvest them as timber. He often said that as much poplar was milled in America as pine was milled in New Zealand each year.

“Around 1980 the ‘M.bovis of poplar’ arrived from Australia in poplar rust and it was a major setback,” Alex said.

“All the council nursery stocks of poplar were pulled out and a whole new breeding programme began, to develop rust-resistant varieties.

“This left only Matsudana willows as an interim species, and they were planted by the thousands in all gullies on Awapapa.”

Cyclone Bola caused very little damage in any gullies on Awapapa, due to that.

“Dad was often referred to as a man ahead of his time.

“The legacy he left shows huge potential to support the Government ‘billion tree target’ without unnecessarily sacrificing good farmland to the scourge of Radiata.

“New Zealand agriculture is a great industry and Dad’s vision was to coordinate a sensible application of trees within it.

“He was a strong advocate of prosperity from forestry on marginal land, yet very passionate about the importance of agriculture as a contributor to strong communities and providing the world with much-needed food.”

Alex said not everything on Awapapa had been a success but his father left an imprint that would last long after his passing.

“We have had our difficulties,” Jim’s wife Isobel said. “We have suffered wins and losses, natural and economic disasters have greatly affected us, but I am tremendously appreciative of Jim’s companionship and the qualities he invested in our lives.

“His legacy to the next generation is that with hard work, good standards, determination, vision and careful planning, great results can be achieved.”

Jim Campbell passed away last month at the age of 90. He is survived by Isobel, four sons, two daughters and 13 grand children.

A pioneer, a man with vision who knew about sensible and prosperous land use, a passionate farmer and self-made man — that was Jim Campbell

He farmed Awapapa Station on the Tiniroto Road and had a lot of the right ideas when it comes to how the Government’s plan to plant a billion trees could be implemented. He only farmed Awapapa for 22 years but the impact he made was huge.

“Dad’s Scottish heritage and hard upbringing brought out a rather eccentric approach compared to the average East Coast traditionalist,” said his son Alex, who, with his wife Megen, now manages Awapapa.

“The gold he left was in the standards and examples he set for the next generations to follow.

“Dad’s vision had a lot going for it when it comes to ‘the billion trees’ scenario.”

Awapapa is a 360 hectare hill country sheep and beef property specialising in bull finishing, with at least 35 percent tree canopy of about 40 hectares retired in pine and redwoods. The remainder is in space-planted poplar.

“Dad was a strong advocate of alternative species and saw Radiata in many cases as too short a rotation, creating too much damage and cost at harvesting.”

Some pine woodlots on Awapapa have now been replaced with redwoods.

“The stumps never die which is rather important on very unstable land,” Alex said.

Awapapa produces very respectable livestock returns, compared to district averages, and those returns have been greatly enhanced through the marketing of trees, he said.

As with pine woodlots, Jim Campbell was focused on pruning poplar.

Awapapa exported 400 tonnes of pruned poplar to China in 2013, destined to be used for chopsticks, and that was just the beginning.

Jim was brought up in Southland and started his career at Ocean Beach freezing works where he saved enough to pay for a series 1 Landrover and caravan, with which he went contract fencing around Southland.

He accumulated a deposit to secure Awapapa Station via a Lands and Survey ballot settlement at the age of 40 in 1967.

He and wife Isobel and their four young children left the home town comforts of Southland and came to the unknown hills of Gisborne.

“Dad was someone who sought to be independent and bring his family up in an environment built on his own foundation.

“He had an inventive approach and always an open mind on how things could be made or done better.

“Dad had a great respect for nature, land, trees, good livestock and quite importantly prosperity within all of that,” Alex said.

“He had a wealth of respect and knowledge of things such as livestock psychology, wildlife behaviour, stars, moon, cloud formations, atmospheric influences on weather, and the beauty of trees to enhance the landscape.

“He always played an active part in supporting a prosperous community, a strong and successful government and teaching others good values.”

While working in Southland he founded the Northern Southland Farm Forestry Association.

Awapapa in 1967 consisted of 12 paddocks of bare hills and apart from buildings, the entire plant consisted of one horse.

“It was a huge challenge, however, it was one that Dad grasped with enthusiasm, and soon it was obvious it was a great farming area, with good climate, fertile soil but rather prone to erosion in adverse rain events.”

He quickly got support from the Department of Agriculture to improve farm production, with the focus on improved subdivision, better grazing systems and improved breeding.

Border Leicester rams were introduced to form a flock of Coopworth ewes. He was at the forefront of bringing composite breeding into a district where traditional Romneys were lambing 100 percent.

“Very quickly the Awapapa lambing percentage jumped to 125 percent, which was a rather stand-out result in this district.”

Pre-lamb shearing was another initiative that made him look rather radical at the time.

Jim was also quick to enlist the support of the Hawke’s Bay Catchment Board to form a sustainable land management programme with the vision for a rather massive transformation of his land.

“Primarily it was to protect the hillsides from erosion and create an environment that enhanced welfare of the livestock.

“Although it was a ‘green’ approach Dad was a realist and focused on incorporating prosperity into a sustainable land management plan.”

At the outset a small block of Radiata was planted on unproductive land for future income. Existing native bush was fenced off to protect regeneration.

“Many small pockets of alternative species — redwood, Douglas fir, Tasmanian blackwood, macrocarpa and cedar — were also planted.

“However, the main drive on Awapapa was the potential for poplar to support and sustain livestock production.”

Jim Campbell was at the forefront of planting new hybrids with potential to harvest them as timber. He often said that as much poplar was milled in America as pine was milled in New Zealand each year.

“Around 1980 the ‘M.bovis of poplar’ arrived from Australia in poplar rust and it was a major setback,” Alex said.

“All the council nursery stocks of poplar were pulled out and a whole new breeding programme began, to develop rust-resistant varieties.

“This left only Matsudana willows as an interim species, and they were planted by the thousands in all gullies on Awapapa.”

Cyclone Bola caused very little damage in any gullies on Awapapa, due to that.

“Dad was often referred to as a man ahead of his time.

“The legacy he left shows huge potential to support the Government ‘billion tree target’ without unnecessarily sacrificing good farmland to the scourge of Radiata.

“New Zealand agriculture is a great industry and Dad’s vision was to coordinate a sensible application of trees within it.

“He was a strong advocate of prosperity from forestry on marginal land, yet very passionate about the importance of agriculture as a contributor to strong communities and providing the world with much-needed food.”

Alex said not everything on Awapapa had been a success but his father left an imprint that would last long after his passing.

“We have had our difficulties,” Jim’s wife Isobel said. “We have suffered wins and losses, natural and economic disasters have greatly affected us, but I am tremendously appreciative of Jim’s companionship and the qualities he invested in our lives.

“His legacy to the next generation is that with hard work, good standards, determination, vision and careful planning, great results can be achieved.”

Jim Campbell passed away last month at the age of 90. He is survived by Isobel, four sons, two daughters and 13 grand children.

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