The Farm

Motutapu Farm Ltd

The first and only pest free farm in the world!

ricks pics from the island 016 croppedSustainable island pastoral management on Auckland region's largest pastoral farm

Motutapu is an island of 1509 hectares. Currently the vast majority is open pasture farm land supporting around 3500 sheep and 1000 beef cattle. Motutapu is the largest pastoral farm within a significant radius of the Auckland region incorporating the majority of the country's urban dwellers

So our Restoration Trust has the three neighbours on the island:

  • The Department of Conservation (DoC)
  • The Motutapu Outdoor Education Camp Trust (MOEC)
  • The Farm

Click on the link to view the paddock layout:

North West coast

 There is potential for conflict between farming and conservation but Motutapu is an excellent example of how different groups can work effectively together for their mutual benefit.

The current farm leaseholder, Rick Braddock, (pictured above, enjoying the island's excellent pasture with some of his tenants ) is one of our Motutapu Restoration Project trustees. 

In the mid 1940's,  following the cessation of wartime defence activities on the island, farming resumed under the Department of Lands and Survey. In the late 1980's Lands and Survey was split into the Department of Conservation and Landcorp. DoC became the landlord and Landcorp the tenant but this was never a good combination and Landcorp exited all its DoC leases in 1992.

At the time Rick and Motutapu Farms Ltd assumed the lease, Motutapu had been largely ignored for over 50 years and had been allowed to deteriorate into a poor standard of improvements.  Also at that time a terrible weed problem threatening to strangle the life out of all the open pastoral landscape. Rick spent most of the initial  nine years of his lease getting the weeds, pastures and improvements back into a good state

""I took the lease on Motutapu in 1992 after a public tender process. I've always been interested in Motutapu and saw the logistics of farming an island as a great challenge. I'm also enthusiastic about the future of New Zealand's agricultural industry and the products we produce: they need to be sustainable, traceable and carbon neutral.""

With that in mind I saw Motutapu as an opportunity to demonstrate sustainable farming practice in partnership with conservation, add to that this beautiful island in the Hauraki Gulf and only 30 minutes from Auckland - what more could you ask for!'

In spite of working on a visually stunning farm, Motutapu does present serious problems due to the simple fact it is surrounded by water. Animals have to be taken off the island by barge, 1000 sheep at a time or 100 cattle, all the farm equipment has to be barged out and the farm manager can't just nip down the road and hire a digger for the afternoon.

 Rick is enthusiastic about farming on the island: 'despite the challenges, Motutapu is big enough to sustain economic farming and the conservation activities. Many of the areas that are being replanted are on steep land or in wetlands.

Conservation aside, these places need to be protected anyway, and the wide belts of fenced off native trees provide excellent shelter for stock from wind, rain and sun while at the same time and without conflict, provide habitats for native birds.

'Sheep and cattle produce methane, a serious contributor to farming's carbon footprint, but by having conservation activities in conjunction with agriculture, a balance can be reached which makes it possible to deliver a carbon neutral product to the market. It's all part of sustainability for the future'

 Rick sees the farmland as an integral part of Motutapu's past and future, in addition to being the obvious medium from which to enjoy the cultural heritage and landscape. Pastoral farming is the backbone of NZ both from a land use and economic perspective but with current urbanization, only a very small proportion of the population know anything about pastoral farming.

Being able to demonstrate commercially viable farming on a NZ owned recreational reserve working in tandem with other conservation projects is the main appeal for Rick Braddock.

Refer Heritage/European Settlement
for island farming activiites 1840 - 1940 

 But why have a farm on the DOC estate?

The farm is critical to the success of our overall restoration programme, it is essential for maintaining the lansdscape of Motutapu

  • Pastoral farming is recognised as an excellent way to protect the approximately 300 archeological sites from regrowth and subsequent root damage
  • Pastoralisation is critical on Motutapu to control weed reinfestation
  • The military heritage sites will never be planted out, pastoral farming is the obvious method to maintain these cultural landscapes
  • Kiwi and takahe are indoubtedly enjoying the pasture environment since their arrival in 2011/12
  • The farm is the first and only pest free farm in the world following the pest eradication programme. This, in itself, is a wonderful advocacy attribute.

Farming has been carried out on Motutapu since 1840 and is thus an important Heritage activity. Farm tours are being planned for the future.

Soil Carbon Discussion - the Carbon Farming Group

One of our most significant issues is Climate Change, how human generated CO2 levels are speeding us toward unknown territory with regard to rainfall patterns, sea level and temperature rises, and how New Zealand is addressing its Kyoto obligations by implementing an Emissions Trading Scheme.

Farmers are limited in emission reduction strategies by the technologies and farming systems available to them, and there is a pressing need for much greater investment in Ag-science along both traditional and novel investigation paths that matches both the complexity of the challenge and the importance of farming to this country. 

The obvious first approach is tree planting, however, beneath the grass - the potential for 'soil Carbon' to help farmers offset emissions has become a very hot topic in New Zealand.

Apart from the offset aspect, proponents see significant potential for soil Carbon in improving soil health, and flow on effects around pasture quality, animal health, productivity and profitability levels, lower environmental compliance costs and in the marketing of our produce abroad. However, before these can be safely realised, there needs to be greater investigation into the science. More importantly, we need to know how it translates to on-farm management techniques to increase real-world options available for farmers to reduce their emissions.          

Rick is implementing changes to his farm management practices on Motutapu to build a farming system that is carbon positive.

This work is being monitored and documented and will be used as a demonstration farm, creating a leadership platform for New Zealand farming practices to follow in the future.

Where better to do this than on a Conservation estate owned by all New Zealanders for the benefit of everyone.

Rick Braddock is a Trustee on the Carbon Farming Group
for more information refer

Farm Managers on Motutapu 1944 - 1984

  • 1944-48           E.Bull
  • 1950-52           David Austin
  • 1957                N. Bunker
  • 1957-59           L.G.Bedford
  • 1959                 S.Voyce
  • 1959-63           N.Burnell
  • 1963-65           M.R.Bennet
  • 1965-1969       M.W.Robertson
  • 1970-76           A.J.McLean
  • 1976-80           I.H.Wilson
  • 1980-84           R.McCabe


The restored Home Bay wharf


Lush pasture of Motutapu - Auckland's iconic backdrop, Rangitoto, features on right