Christchurch played host to the Beef & Lamb Awards just a few weeks ago at the Te Pae Convention Centre, celebrating the best innovation, technologies, management systems and people in Aotearoa's world-leading red-meat sector.
Cheviot Sheep and Beef farmer Ben Ensor came away with the Regional Leadership Award on the night, recognised as an outstanding individual in the sheep, beef and dairy beef sector.
Ben Ensor is not just a man tilling the soil and herding livestock. Together with his wife, Jane, he's also an advocate for change in North Canterbury's farming community. He told REX host Dominic George he has faced a lot of obstacles while advocating for the rights of dryland and hill country farmers, specifically around rural regulations.
"I became aware of the situation and it just all works out a bit stiff, doesn't it? It's obviously wrong," he said.
"I thought We might just pop down to a couple of meetings and tell them, explain why they've got it wrong, and they'll change it and happy days away will go, but little did I know it would take three or four years."
However, change didn't come easily. The road to progress was "a long and convoluted process" that required collective efforts from the community.
"We were incredibly well supported by a whole lot of people in the district, including the Hurunui District Council, the Mayor of the time, etc. So we certainly had support and it was just a matter of working through a process."
This process was not just about changing regulations but fostering understanding and constructive dialogue within the community. Ensor underlined the importance of being "straight up" and "honest," and highlighted the need to listen to and understand others' views.
When it comes to sustainability, Ensor is one who has taken a proactive stance, as a founding member of the Silver Fern Farms net carbon zero program.
"I was really happy to get on board with that when given the opportunity," he said.
"Carbon in general is a massive issue for our sector right now."
Ensor stressed the importance of the need for a collective effort to reduce carbon footprints amidst the tension caused by regulations.
"We all actually want the same thing just different…often on how we're going to get there and the pace of change that's needed.
"So, yeah, it's where we need to find some common ground."
In the end, the conversation with Ben Ensor painted a picture of a resilient, forward-thinking leader who, despite the challenges, remains dedicated to fostering change and progress within North Canterbury's farming community.
Listen to the full chat between Ben Ensor and Dominic George above.