Charlie Pearson

“I was pretty surprised really, to receive the scholarship! Like with most things that you try out for you hope you get it but never really get your hopes up too much. I felt really lucky for the experience and also the opportunity to explore my heritage a little bit more.”

Bayley Coster won the Ngai Tahu Farming Ravensdown scholarship last September, receiving a $5000 boost towards her Massey University fees and the opportunity to intern with Ngai Tahu Farming.

Ngai Tahu Farming Scholarship winner Bayley Coster.

Coming up to the end of her final year of a Bachelor of Veterinary Technology degree last year (specialising in production animals) she had already landed a great job at Vetora in Putaruru which aligned perfectly with her degree, and her new employers were so eager to see her hit the ground running they asked her to start immediately after her final exam.

As a large animal veterinary technician, it was exactly the kind of job Bayley had been looking for but she also knew the value the Ngai Tahu internship experience would give and was excited to strengthen her Ngai Tahutanga.

“I whakapapa back to Koukourarata and Onuku through family ties to Aramainana,” Bayley says of her heritage.

So, she made it work and figured out a compromise. Usually the internship covers an entire summer, but Bayley knew she couldn’t take that much time off from her job. She had already been with Vetora for a month at this point. Instead she found a few weeks when business at the vets was slow, asked to do her internship then and Ngai Tahu farms was happy to oblige.

‘It was great to meet heaps of new people involved with farming down there and people who whakapapa back to the same runanga as I do.’

In the end she only spent two weeks over January in Christchurch, but the experience was invaluable none the less and she’s already thinking about going back to the area soon.

“It was great to meet heaps of new people involved with farming down there and people who whakapapa back to the same runanga as I do. I was told about what the marae of these runanga look like and was encouraged to go and visit these places for myself. It definitely gives me an excuse to go down there again”.

Bayley spent much of her time at Eyrewell Lodge, slap bang in the middle of the 13 farms (more than 6757 hectares) that make up Te Whenua Hou dairy development in Canterbury, north of the Waimakariri River.

Te Whenua Hou is just one of three farming properties operated by Ngai Tahu and runs mostly dairy and dairy grazing operations. The other properties are both used for grazing: Balmoral – 8900ha of North Canterbury forestry land which is being cleared to make way for irrigated pasture for beef farming; and Whakatipu – 29,197ha at and around Lake Wakatipu. Ngai Tahu also manages 54,000ha of forests.

“On the dairy support farms I was involved in the animal health management of the calves, shifting fences and mobs, and weed and pasture management” Bayley says.

“The last two days I spent time with Ash-Leigh Campbell, a technical advisor for Ngai Tahu farming, and visited another 20,000ha of beef and forestry land near Culverden. I also got to sit in on meetings with agronomists, farm managers and dairy support managers.”

As someone who lives in the Bay of Plenty and was brought up in Gisborne and Tauranga, she was struck by the greater intensity and scale of farming in the South Island. Bayley found this especially true of the Ngai Tahu farms, and the fact they manage to do it all while being environmentally and culturally conscious was eye-opening.

Since returning from the internship she’s moved into the workers’ cottage on her parents’ property, a convenient drive from her job in Putaruru. The farm is close to Bayley’s heart and most of her weekends are spent working on it.

“I would eventually like to take over the family farm when my mum and dad decide it is time they step away” she says.

Bayley’s parents met through the police force in Taupo, but by the time she was born their interests had shifted toward farming – both came from agricultural backgrounds. When she was in primary school her dad worked part time on their grandparents’ and uncle’s farm and when she was 10 they bought their first farm, in Matawai. After a few years they sold that for a property in the Kaimai Ranges, where they live today.

“I love looking after animals and working with them,” the 21-year-old says. She’s also very interested in the animals’ owners and helping them achieve their goals as smoothly as possible.

“I can’t imagine myself ever working in an industry without animals.”

The Ngai Tahu scholarship winner has also received a number of other awards in the past.

“I was lucky enough to receive a Bay of Plenty Farming Education Trust scholarship in 2018. I also received a Lawson-Smith Freemason Scholarship in 2019 that is awarded to veterinary and veterinary technology students”.

Bayley’s plan is to stay on at Vetora until she is comfortable and confident performing all tasks expected of her, but she understands that it is a tall order to ask of herself because “the industry is constantly changing and improving”. Most of all she would like to be an advocate for the veterinary technology degree.

Like everyone, the arrival of Covid-19 in the country has had an unfortunate impact on Bayley’s work, reducing the hours she’s been able to work, and Vetora’s client-base has dropped.

“When lockdown began our workplace was split into two teams. We worked either two or three days a week, doing emergency jobs. We were really busy with orders and such. Unfortunately, the lockdown happened just as we were starting to really ramp up drying off and teatsealing jobs.”