Rachael Mitchell - Perrin Ag Consultants

Tree Choice crucial under National’s Indigenous Biodiversity Rules

As National Environmental Standards for Indigenous Biodiversity loom on the horizon for farmers, planting the right trees in the right place has never been more important says Rachael Mitchell, the first agricultural consultant certified in both nutrient management and forestry advisory in New Zealand.

A Perrin Ag Senior Consultant, Rachael says the Indigenous Biodiversity Standards, introduced in August 2023, will be rolled out by district councils over the next couple of years and farmers have an opportunity to combine all their regulatory requirements into one activity.

“There is a lot of discussion about planting pine trees in relation to ETS credits, but carbon capture isn’t the only reason for tree planting,” says Rachael.

“Fostering biodiversity through native planting can yield financial rewards and environmental benefits in the long run. It’s never been more important to plant the right tree in the right place for the right purpose,” says Rachael.

Rachael is a Certified Nutrient Management Advisor and has recently been approved the Ministry for Primary Industry’s accreditation as a Specialist Forestry Advisor, the first consultant in New Zealand to hold both qualifications.

She says there has been a strong focus on pine forests, but native planting represents an opportunity to help farmers navigate environmental sustainability by capturing greenhouse gases and managing nutrients. It also has the potential to turn profits when future biodiversity credit market become established in New Zealand.

Rachael says most farmers are now well-versed in nutrient losses and they are now getting their heads around their GHG profile and ecological footprints. 

“The next cab off the rank is reducing their GHG profiles and then the National Environmental Standards for Indigenous Biodiversity, introduced in August this year, will appear on their horizon as they are implemented by the district councils.”

While some forestry advisors are often fixated on pine trees, Rachael says her approach spans understanding nutrient profiles, greenhouse gas implications, and now forestation or native revegetation on farms.  With most of her spare time spent volunteering in native restoration on private and public projects, as well as at Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari, her knowledge is more than just academic.

“My passion lies in understanding how the whole farm ecosystem works together and helping farmers make informed choices to sustainably manage their operations.”

Perrin Ag was recently involved in a study as part of the Our Land and Water Science Challenge that suggested a market for biodiversity credits could be viable in the future. Right now, New Zealand has an emergent biodiversity credit market. However, the study of 17 different funding models suggested credits were the most viable funding option to support farmers to fund land use change and meet environmental targets.

“It’s important to look at what you’re planting,” says Rachael. “Pine trees might be the cheapest option and oak trees might look good around a duck pond but appropriate natives in appropriate areas will capture carbon, help manage nutrients and increase biodiversity. Investing in planting natives will provide the best opportunities for dovetailing into future biodiversity credits.”

With debate around the management of our pine forests following Cyclone Gabrielle, Rachael believes permanent afforestation is also likely to become more prevalent around New Zealand.  With a reduced appetite for any kind of pine trees, native afforestation may be on the cusp of coming into its own.

“Making choices about which trees to plant in perpetuity carries with it a high level of responsibility to get it right,” she says. “These decisions need to be looked at from all angles including nutrient management, GHG capture and the impact on farm biodiversity.”

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Lee Matheson

Managing Director
Principal Consultant

B.Appl.Sc (Hons), FNZIPIM (Reg)

Lee came to agribusiness consultancy via the unlikely pathway of a suburban Wellington upbringing, an Honours degree in plant science and a six-year career in the financial markets. In his role as the firm’s MD, Lee doesn’t get out on-farm as much as he used to but makes the most of it when he does. While having swapped the paddock for the boardroom, Lee continues to provide advice in the areas of farm business strategy, farm system innovation, corporate governance, investment analysis and economic research.

Outside of Perrin Ag, Lee loves to spend his time coaching rugby, watching his three kids play sport and gardening with his wife Haidee.

“I love the challenge of empowering people in our primary sectors and the excitement of seeing clients achieving their aspirations. If we can encourage farmers to engage with their consumers, take a more active involvement in their supply chains and view their businesses through a wider lens, then I think our industries have a great future.”

Abbey Dowd

Consultant

B.Ag.Sc (Hons), MNZIPIM

Abbey joined Perrin Ag in February 2023 as part of the firm’s graduate recruitment programme, Empower.

Abbey grew up surrounded by dairy farms in a close-knit community in South Waikato. She saw first-hand how local farmers supported her community, which is what inspired her to study at Lincoln University.

Growing up in a rural community Abbey has always been impressed by how much local farmers contribute to the community. She wanted to help give back to the industry and play a part in helping our primary sector continue to produce quality food in a sustainable way.

In 2022, Abbey spent the summer as an intern on one of New Zealand’s first commercial deer milking operations. Her Honours project was researching deer milk alongside other more traditional milking operations and assessing the deer milking industry’s future production possibilities.

“Growing up I didn’t live on a farm, but I always knew I wanted to work in the farming sector. I wanted a role where there was a balance between working on and off farm and where I could support farmers to get the best out of their businesses.”

Sam Gray

Consultant

Sam grew up on a dairy farm in the Far North. After graduating from the University of Otago in 2005 with an Honours degree in molecular biotechnology, he spent several years working in medical research in New Zealand and Scotland. Upon returning to New Zealand in 2012, he spent four seasons dairy farming in Northland before purchasing a 56 ha block in Taupо̄, where he was first exposed to farming under a nitrogen cap. Sam joined Perrin Ag in 2023 and brings his strong analytical skills that are grounded by a pragmatic approach to problem solving. Outside of farming and consultancy, you’ll likely find him fly fishing, hunting or snowboarding.

“A lot of farmers feel overwhelmed in the face of a rapidly changing regulatory landscape. I strive to help farmers understand what these environmental regulations mean for their business, and offer practical solutions that allow them to keep doing what they do best, whilst remaining compliant”.

Danni Armstrong

Finance administrator

Danni grew up on a life style block in Atiamuri and spent five seasons as a relief milker in the area. During this time, her full time roles were in various fields including the rental car, health care and marine industries. Danni has had a focus on administrative and accounting duties, but is also proficient in looking after customers especially well, social media and website operation, running a rental car fleet and the associated tasks like training, rosters, H&S and organising repairs! Danni joined Perrin Ag in May 2021, to be part of a business in an industry she is passionate about.

During her spare time Danni can be found reading a book with her cats or out enjoying the walks in Rotorua’s Redwoods.

“What motivates me each day is knowing that I will be challenged with a range of problem solving tasks. I love to see all the figures adding up and knowing that my role makes a difference to the team.”

Duncan Walker

Director
Principal Consultant

B.Appl.Sc, MNZIPIM (Reg)

Coming from a drystock and dairy farming background, Duncan has always been passionate about growing primary sector businesses. Whether it’s pastoral farming, forestry, horticulture or investments outside the farm gate, sustainably optimising business performance is Duncan’s passion. After graduating from Massey University with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Agribusiness, Duncan’s first opportunity to optimise a farm business was by undertaking a dairy conversion. Duncan project managed the conversion and continued to run the dairy farm for a further three years.

Since joining Perrin Ag in 2011 Duncan works with a wide range of clients including those ‘outside the farm gate’. With his strong background in investment analysis, business strategy and project management, Duncan is increasingly working with clients to analyse and integrate horticulture and forestry investments into their farm businesses.

“I enjoy helping clients navigate through the complexities of today’s operational, financial and environmental challenges. Seeing clients achieve their goals is very rewarding”

Lee Matheson

Managing Director
Principal Consultant

B.Appl.Sc (Hons), FNZIPIM (Reg)

Lee came to agribusiness consultancy via the unlikely pathway of a suburban Wellington upbringing, an Honours degree in plant science and a six-year career in the financial markets. In his role as the firm’s MD, Lee doesn’t get out on-farm as much as he used to but makes the most of it when he does. While having swapped the paddock for the boardroom, Lee continues to provide advice in the areas of farm business strategy, farm system innovation, corporate governance, investment analysis and economic research.

Outside of Perrin Ag, Lee loves to spend his time coaching rugby, watching his three kids play sport and gardening with his wife Haidee.

“I love the challenge of empowering people in our primary sectors and the excitement of seeing clients achieving their aspirations.  If we can encourage farmers to engage with their consumers, take a more active involvement in their supply chains and view their businesses through a wider lens, then I think our industries have a great future.”