Hawke's Bay Economic Development Manager Tom Skerman awarded Nuffield Scholarship

Tom Skerman low res nov 13

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Economic Development Manager Tom Skerman has been awarded a prestigious Nuffield Scholarship.

Mr Skerman is one of four new 2016 Nuffield scholars, joining more than 140 of New Zealand’s emerging agricultural leaders to have been awarded Nuffield Scholarships in the past 60 years.

During the year-long scholarship Mr Skerman plans to research the importance of governance for successful and resilient farming businesses. He will travel internationally for at least four months in his scholarship year, take part in a conference with 60 Nuffield Scholars from around the world, as well as a six week Global Focus Programme through several countries with other scholars.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Interim Chief Executive Liz Lambert says this is a tremendous opportunity for a key regional council employee.

"While he won’t be on the ground here in Hawke’s Bay for some of next year, we believe what Tom will learn and bring back to the council and the wider community will offer huge benefits," says Mrs Lambert.

HBRC Chairman Fenton Wilson agrees, saying the face of farming in New Zealand is changing and should the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme go ahead there will be changes in Hawke’s Bay as well.

"Tom has an intimate knowledge of farming and the Ruataniwha Scheme and what he will learn during his scholarship year will provide another opportunity for the regional council to add value to farmers in the region," says Mr Wilson.

The scholarships are one of the most respected and prestigious awards available in the primary sector and offer a life-changing opportunity for overseas travel, study of the latest development in a number of leading agricultural countries, and an introduction to leaders and decision makers not accessible to the ordinary traveller.

Hawke's Bay's Sacred Hill eyeing the USA for it's 30th vintage.

As Sacred Hill Vineyards racks up 30 vintages with the release of its 2015 wines, MD and co-founder David Mason has the US market firmly in his sights.
Started in the mid 1980s by Mason, his brother Mark and their winemaking friend Tony Bish on the Mason family farm in Hawke’s Bay picturesque Dartmoor Valley, Sacred Hill is now one of New Zealand’s largest privately owned wine producers, making more than 350,000 cases per year. It has become one of the country’s premium brands, a favourite in the domestic market and exports wines to more than 30 countries. But all that belies its humble beginnings.
After David’s father Ian became one of the first Hawke’s Bay farmers to diversify from traditional sheep and cattle farming and planted grapes on his property in the early 1980s, the Mason brothers and Bish – self described “wine geeks” – set out with the idea of making more wine than they could drink and selling the rest to fund their passion for fine wine. 
“Our first vintage was 350 cases of 1986 Fume Blanc, a popular style of oak aged Sauvignon Blanc at the time. It sold out. So did the next vintage of 700 cases and we thought we might be on to something.”
Fast forward 30 years and Mason has led Sacred Hill from its rustic beginnings through remarkable growth with his hands on involvement in all facets of the business including marketing, brand management and sales.
With Mason helming the business and Bish leading the winemaking operation, Sacred Hill became innovators in the 90s, pioneering the use of indigenous yeasts and being among the first to introduce new oak and chilled barrel ferments. Their drive into premium wines included the planting of Rifleman’s Vineyard, now one of the country’s most revered Chardonnay vineyards, on the original family farm. Sacred Hill also invested in the renowned Gimblett Gravels sub-region of Hawke’s Bay, from where they have produced red wines that have more than held their own with Bordeaux’s finest in blind tastings. The company now employs more than 60 staff and exports wine to countries such as Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, India, Fiji, Vanuatu, Denmark, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, the United States, Canada and New Caledonia.
The export market was what prompted perhaps Sacred Hill’s biggest business decision, to move beyond its Hawke’s Bay home and invest in Marlborough, including the purchase of Hell’s Gate, Hammond Estate and Singing Bridge vineyards.
“Our heart is in Hawke’s Bay but as a business our future investment will be in Marlborough,” Mason says. “The potential growth is in export, especially the US market, which has a taste for Marlborough wines, with Sauvignon Blanc leading the charge.”
Sacred Hill has developed a knack of producing gold medal Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs and Senior Winemaker Tony Bish rates the 2015 Marlborough wines as the region’s best Sauvignon Blancs in years - great news for Sacred Hill in their quest to conquer the US market.
Mason says Sacred Hill really smartened up its act and started operating as a serious business about 15 years ago. “Prior to that we did everything on a shoestring. Through the 80s we had a few false starts thanks to a drought, a flood and then in 1988 the infamous Cyclone Bola wiped us out, but we hung in there.”
While he is focussed on continued innovation, growth and the export potential of Sacred Hill’s Marlborough wines, Mason has not lost sight of where it all began.
 “The early days were precious times by the river with friends, family and food and Sacred Hill remains true to those roots today.”
“We have always been about making wines to share with family and friends and we always will be. Our brand campaign today takes a stance on the importance of these times of real connection in today’s high speed, always on, distraction-filled lives.”
As the brand reminds us, “Some things should be kept sacred.”

New Ravensdown director in Hawke's Bay


Ravensdown’s new director for the Eastern North Island, Bruce Wills, has attended his first board meeting as the co-operative plans for its busy early spring to continue.

The former president of Federated Farmers of New Zealand and Hawke’s Bay sheep and beef farmer was looking forward to the challenge.

"This seems like a great time to join Ravensdown as there is a confidence and quiet determination that is pervading the business," said Bruce. "There’s a feeling that the strategy is the right one and we farmer shareholders have got a strong management team in charge of executing that strategy," added Bruce.

John Henderson, Ravensdown’s Chairman welcomed Bruce and appreciated his valuable experience. "Bruce is an insightful thinker and he cares about the co-operative’s performance."

John Henderson also updated the board about spring demand. "Across all sectors we are seeing customers committing to soil and feed testing as well as purchasing fertiliser to apply while they can."

According to John, price capping products like superphosphate is also stimulating demand. "Projections of dry conditions have also meant our new N-Protect product, which reduces nitrogen lost to the atmosphere, has seen strong interest. Over the next six months, the business will be monitoring costs closely and continuing to focus on product and service quality," added John.

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