Mussels are extensively farmed in the Marlborough Sounds. Photo: Supplied.

Scientists’ mussel seabed solution

Hopes to bring wild mussels back to the Sounds and boost marine diversity have moved a step closer.

An international team of experts are calling for Marlborough District Council to approve plans to create two new mussel beds in the Pelorus Sound.

And marine scientists hope the Marlborough project could spark mussel bed restoration initiatives in other parts of New Zealand.

The move comes after three years of investigation into the best way to create new seabed habitats.

Large areas of mussel beds were destroyed last century as land clearance and ongoing run off from farmland altered the nature of the seabed.

A report prepared for council by marine scientist Dr Andrew Jeffs says dropping clean shells to create a habitat for two new mussel beds in

the Pelorus Sound could stop further deterioration.

“For a number of years there has been concern, including from MDC, about the decline of wild shellfish beds in areas of the Marlborough Sounds.

“Studies in other areas have shown that mussel beds are extremely productive, support high biodiversity, act as nurseries for fin-fish species, and help to remove suspended sediment from the water column and stabilise the seabed,” the report says.

Scientists plan to drop clean shells to act as anchors for live mussels in a bid to test whether coarser seabed substrate will prove a better habitat than silt.

The multi-million-dollar project has attracted significant co-funding and specialist technical support from an overseas environmental NGO, The Nature Conservancy.

“One possibility for the lack of natural recovery of wild mussel populations in the Marlborough Sounds is the inability of mussels to re-establish naturally on this changed seabed substrate,” Andrew says.

“Mussels require sediment particles of at least 2 mm in diameter in order to attach their anchoring threads which hold them upright on the seafloor so they can feed,” he says.

The shell material and live mussels will be actively monitored by researchers.

The Marine Farming Association worked with other community groups, the University of Auckland and NIWA to develop the research plan.

Puro managing director Tim Aldridge. Photo: Supplied.

Medical cannabis company to grow job market

Marlborough’s fledgling marijuana industry could inject millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs into the region in its first year.

Bosses at Medical cannabis firm Puro have revealed growing the crop could bring in about $60 million dollars in the next two years.

It could also create more than 300 jobs once established, with the first intake set to start in October.

Puro managing director Tim Aldridge says the business will also create other jobs as it gets underway.

“Puro has the capacity to create in excess of 300 jobs once our long-term facilities are up and running, most of these will be at Kaikoura site.

“On top of this are the indirect jobs and construction employment that our infrastructure and development project will create,” he says.

Puro ran a successful crowd-funding campaign last year, raising $4million to establish the medicinal cannabis operation.

The company intends to grow medicinal cannabis in greenhouses in the Waihopai Valley and high-CBD (cannabidiol) hemp in Kekerengu, on the coast between Blenheim and Kaikōura.

“We estimate that over 95 per cent of our total product will contain no THC, 0.3 per cent or lower,” Tim says.

THC is the psychoactive compound of cannabis that is used to create a high.

“Our focus is towards CDB and other medically beneficial cannabinoids.”

The large, outdoor facility in Kaikoura is where most of our new jobs will be created, Tim says.

“Here we will have cultivation technicians that will work under supervision in roles based around plant sowing, harvesting, pruning and pest management.

“There will be supervisors overseeing these roles and specialists to work alongside them – plant pathologists, compost experts etc.

“These roles will be most suited for horticultural trained postgraduate students, or others with similar qualification and commercial experience,” he says.

The Kaikoura processing area will also have technicians for bucking, trimming, milling, and drying of the hemp flower.

“Following the processing, we will have roles for packaging and distribution to third party manufacturers.

“Our outdoor cultivation will come online in September with some workforce required prior to planting.

There will be multiple roles in the laboratory, research and cultivation divisions including cannabis horticulture, process management, compliance and packaging created at the indoor Waihopai glasshouses.

“We are ready to start planning as soon as our commercial cultivation license is received from the Ministry of Health, which is currently pending.”

“This is a multi-million-dollar economic boost for Marlborough and Kaikoura and our success will encourage other local businesses to entire this exciting and profitable market.”

Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith is backing the business, saying it brings with it the chance for Marlborough to make its mark on the world stage as a cannabis producer.

“I understand the value in utilising our precious farmland for economic purposes, with the goal to better both the local and national community,” he says.

“…there is now an opportunity to bring a new land-based industry to Marlborough with the potential to cement Marlborough’s place on the world stage as a premium producer of medical cannabis products.”

Shearer Angus Moore checks out his new lease Hyundai as part of his prize. Photo: Supplied.

Shearer’s tribute to community who helped him take top title

A shearer who became hooked on the craft after showing up late for his first competition has taken out one of New Zealand’s top shearing titles.

Angus Moore from Seddon won the PGG Wrightson Wool National Shearing Circuit Championship earlier this month, just before lockdown.

The father of five says it’s the people he’s met along the way who helped him on the path to success.

Angus has come out on top of the National Shearing Circuit, a series of regional shearing competitions that culminated at the Golden Shears Championships.

There are many people he wants to thank for helping him take out the top spot, he says.

“Big thanks to all who have helped me along the way and who work hard to make our industry possible.

“The experience of travel is a draw card, so I have met and worked with farm owners, shepherds, presses, wool handlers, shearers, cooks and runabouts from all over NZ.

“At The Paki station in the far north and Invercargill, and around the Catlins in the south, I have learned a little from you even if you never meant to teach.

“You are fantastic and there always seems to be fun, laughter and keenness to learn.”

Angus and wife Ratapu are expecting their sixth child in May. Together, the pair who met on the circuit, run Moore Sheep Shearing Ltd.

Brought up on a family farm in Kekerengu then Ward. Angus was Head Boy at Marlborough Boys’ College in 2002 and spent his teenage years wool handling in the holidays.

He went on to complete a shearing course run by Meat and Wool New Zealand under the tuition of instructor and later MP Colin King.

But it wasn’t until he took part in his first shearing competition that he really caught the bug, he says.

“My first show was November 2003 in Blenheim. I hadn’t done a full day’s work and arrived late due to playing in the pipe band. I made the final, came 3rd and I was hooked.

“My first experience of the Golden shears was with Nathan Stratford in 2005 where I managed to make intermediate final and came 3rd.

“It was a week that I won’t forget. I had heard about the Golden Shears but the experience was much more than I could have imagined.

“Everyone loved and breathed the wool Industry and we’re so amazingly passionate about it,” Angus says.

But without the support of his sponsors, none of his achievements would be possible, he says.

“Big thanks to PGG Wrightson and Hyundai for their massive sponsorship and recognition of the commitment we all make to compete.

“It will be an honour to compete for my country and I look forward to all the opportunity this prize offers.”

This two-year old Taimate Angus bull sold to Turihaua Angus Stud in Gisborne for an eye-watering price. Photo: Supplied.

Record-breaking bull sale nets Ward farmer massive payday

A Marlborough farmer has smashed records selling a bull for a jaw-dropping $85,000.

Taimate Angus stud farmer Paul Hickman sold a two-year-old bull to Turihaua Angus Stud, in Gisborne, for the sum, eclipsing his previous record of $20,000.

It is believed to be the highest for a bull in the South Island.

“It is an extraordinary price,” Paul says.

Previously, the top price Paul had received for one of his Angus bulls was $20,000.

The Aberdeen Angus, simply known as Angus, is a Scottish breed of small beef cattle.

The name comes from cattle native to Aberdeenshire and Angus in north-eastern Scotland.

The Ward farmer has been breeding bulls on the family farm his whole life.

Sired by Taimate Lazarus, a bull kept as a breeding stud, the as yet unnamed bull will be shipped to its new owner in Gisborne.

“He is just an all-round exceptionally good bull,” Paul says.

“To look at, his performance, the way he walks, the way he moves. Everything.”

Paul says he sold another bull, by Lazarus, for $40,000 and another for $23,000.

Paul says the highest amount paid for a New Zealand Angus bull was around $150,000 in the mid-90’s.

Breaking another South Island record, Taimate Angus received an average price of $14,000 for their 65 livestock up for sale, selling 65 out of 65 bulls.

“She’s a good day and a rather long night celebrating,” Paul says.

He says next year, there will be more sons of Taimate Lazarus for sale, but he wasn’t expecting to surpass this year’s prices.

“That would be a hell of a long shot,” he says. “But never say never.

“I’m very, very pleased.”