Journey through Northland's evolving landscapes with Jason Smith

Journey through Northland's evolving landscapes with Jason Smith

Jason Smith is a Northland Farmer with a fair few strings in his bow. He's got a doctorate in Economic Development, is the former Mayor of Kaipara, an eco-tour operator and now a Museum Director as well.

With 160 years of family roots in the greater Northland region, Smith is in a good position to talk about the recent struggles faced following the devastating effects of Cyclone Gabrielle.

With a concerning drop from 50 to just 30 ewe flocks of more than 500 ewes north of Auckland, Smith predicts an even steeper decline in the future, suggesting a significant transformation in land use and management. 

"We're holding on by fingernails here," he says.

He describes the region as becoming "scruffy" due to increased weed growth from diminished livestock numbers. Smith explains that the landscape is losing its pastoral grooming, which could have far-reaching implications for the community's identity and the resilience of rural societies. 

The conversation also explores the revitalisation of the Kauri Museum following a significant renovation. Smith, involved with the museum, narrates the history of New Zealand's Kauri forests and their logging history. 

The museum, located in the small village of Matakohe, has welcomed nearly two million visitors, highlighting its importance as a cultural institution. 

"The Kauri Museum is almost if you like, the national Kauri Museum."

Lastly, the conversation touches on the kumara industry's resilience, celebrating a promising new harvest after a challenging season. 

Smith speaks with optimism about the industry, encouraging listeners to enjoy the new season's kumara. 

"This year's kumara crop is awesome and it's just coming out of the ground now."

Throughout the conversation, Smith reflects on the broader implications of these changes, including the potential impact on New Zealand's national identity and the future of family farming. 

He expresses frustration over the lack of government recognition for the cultural significance of rural communities, stating, "It's enormously sad what's happening." 

Listen to the full chat between Jason Smith and Dominic George above.

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