The Maori Incorporations that own Oraukura and Moerangi stations near Lake Taupo are custodians of their land for current and future generations. Because the properties will never be sold, long-term planning and environmental and financial sustainability underpin all decisions made on the property.

Barry and Celia Pope oversee the properties on behalf of the 1,700 Maori owners. “Long-term sustainability is the owners’ philosophy as they have an affinity with the land and cannot sell. There is also a need for long-term financial returns for the increasing number of shareholders,” says Barry.

That’s where First Light comes in with its year-round supply commitment and guaranteed minimum returns throughout the year.

“First Light’s long-term outlook fits with the owners’ philosophy. We will always be better off if we supply to the consumers’ needs as they are the ones who set the final price so we need to give them what they want. “We also need our point of difference. This is where the QA system comes in and all the other protocols. These standards set us apart from other meat exporting companies.”

Both Oraukura and Moerangi are in the Lake Taupo catchment region. They have to adhere to the strict regulations set out in the regional plan to minimise effluent and nutrient run-off to protect the water quality of New Zealand’s largest fresh water lake.

Oraukura is 1,275ha with 1045ha effective. It winters 546 cattle, 6,793 sheep and 1,050 deer of which 845 are hinds. Moerangi is 8,000ha with 2,275 effective hectares, wintering 1,246 cattle, 10,920 sheep and 1,345 deer of which 1,164 are hinds. All of the weaners produced on the properties are sold to finishing farmers within the First Light producer group. Barry says the intention is to increase hind numbers on both farms as they are a good fit with the grass growth curves on the properties and this means less Nitrogen is needed to produce the feed required.

Barry says with so many owners there is always demand for any venison available so he’s happy to eat it any way it comes when he can get some.