“We’d recently begun banking with Rabobank and realised that with all the new developments we were undertaking, we could use some further education – and it’s been brilliant” William Oliver
Rabobank’s commitment to New Zealand’s food and agriculture sector goes further than loans to farmers; investing in human capital is just as important. The Rabobank Executive Development Program (EDP) is a leading Australasian business management program designed to further enhance the commercial management skills of the region’s food and agricultural producers.
Program graduates William and Karen Oliver have embraced the inevitability of change by finding opportunities when faced with new environmental legislation.
Against a backdrop of volcanic mountains and in the heart of the North Island’s King Country lies the iconic Lake Taupo – a picturesque and environmentally significant landmark surrounded by prime sheep, beef and deer country.
In 2000, farmers William and Karen Oliver from Te Kuiti heard about legislation introduced by Environment Waikato to decrease the level of controllable nitrate entering Lake Taupo – making the area the first in New Zealand to require a ‘resource consent to farm’.
While many farmers in the Lake Taupo catchment were concerned about the impacts of this new legislation, the Olivers saw potential. “When the legislation was introduced, we knew that we needed to investigate what it meant for us, the region and the future,” said William. “And what we actually found was that it produced a whole new playing field full of opportunity.”
Under the legislation, farms in the catchment were allocated a Nitrate Discharge Allowance (NDA) to account for the amount of nitrate leached from farming animals. The NDA could be traded between farmers depending on the type of farm and stock being run.
While many farmers in the catchment began selling their land, the Olivers decided to move in. They sold Shalimar, their 860 hectare farm in Te Kuiti and bought Motere, a 2783 hectare farm in the Lake Taupo catchment. “We have since purchased neighbouring farms in the catchment that had a very high NDA and then traded the NDA to release capital,” said William.
When New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) came into effect in July 2010, the Olivers realised another revenue opportunity. “Knowing the ETS was approaching, and using the political leverage of the Lake Taupo Protection Trust, we negotiated an 1100 hectare long-term carbon contract. We then planted a carbon forest on the poorest land and sold the NDA to extract the capital.”
William said he expects the income returns from carbon farming to be two to three times that of farming stock. “By trading NDAs, we have utilised our capital more effectively to own more land, including a carbon forest, and this has eliminated a lot of management and maintenance costs.”
It was in the midst of expanding their enterprise that the Olivers’ branch manager recommended Rabobank’s Executive Development Program. “We’d recently begun banking with Rabobank and realised that with all the new developments we were undertaking, we could use some further education – and it’s been brilliant,” said William.
The Rabobank EDP, which runs across two intensive week-long residential modules held 10 months apart, introduces participants to the latest practices in business management, leadership, strategy, finance, human resources and marketing.
“We’ve taken a lot of what we learned from the course and brought it back to implement on the farm,” said William. “One thing we learned is that you can either ‘grow or go’ and we’ve embraced that in looking for opportunities to change and prosper.”
William laughs about the irony of change. “In my father’s lifetime, he was paid to chop down trees,” he said. “Now we’re getting paid to plant them. I fully expect my children will be paid to chop these trees back down again one day. It’s just the way the world goes.”