It’s a brisk winter’s night as Kristy Roa and her teammates jog onto a floodlit sports field in Gisborne.
The 20-year-old shepherd heads for the nearest goal, pulling on a clean set of goalkeeper’s gloves as she goes.
A whistle sounds and it’s not long before a muddy soccer ball is hurtling towards the left corner of the goal.
Kristy dives, her arms stretched out above her head, blocking the ball and flinging it away from the net.
Kristy’s the goalkeeper for a women’s soccer team in Gisborne. Two nights a week she makes the 45 minute drive from Tolaga Bay for practice.
“Our team’s doing quite well at the moment. We’re at the top of the table with Gisborne United,” she said recently.
“It’s a long way to travel, but I enjoy competitive sport and it’s a good reason to get off the farm.”
Kristy works as a shepherd on Iwinui Station near picturesque Tolaga Bay on the East Coast.
The 2100 hectare (effective) station runs 5500 ewes, 1200 ewe lambs, 450 hereford-angus cross cows and 1000 trading bulls.
Approximately three-quarters of the property is moderate to steep hill country, the rest is flats.
Kristy, who’s a member of Gisborne Young Farmers, has been at Iwinui Station since January.
“A typical day for me at the moment involves shifting stock to new paddocks until about lunchtime,” she said.
“In the afternoon I might have to drench lambs or dag ewes. We spend a quite bit of time weighing lambs for the meatworks.”
The large amount of yard work is good experience for Kristy’s growing team of eight sheep dogs.
“I only had a couple of dogs when I started working here, so I had to buy quite a few dogs,” she said.
“I bought pups so I could break them in myself. I really enjoy training dogs. It’s quite cool to see them develop.”
The dogs are invaluable to muster sheep off the station’s steep coastal hills which overlook Tolaga Bay.
Kristy gets around on a farm bike, but recently bought a horse.
“Having a horse can be handy in winter when the tracks get a bit slippery. It’s also a quieter way of handling the stock,” she said.
Kristy grew up in Hamilton. She got her start in the industry at Waipaoa Station, an hour’s drive north of Gisborne.
“By chance I heard about Waipaoa’s two-year cadetship. I attended the open day and it opened my eyes to the agri-food sector and endless opportunities within it,” she said.
Kristy was one of five accepted into the 2017 intake.
“For someone new to the industry I couldn’t think of anything better than doing a cadetship,” she said.
“Over my two years at Waipaoa Station I was exposed to all aspects of the industry. Our fencing and dog handling tutors were some of the best in the business.”
Cadets are trained in all aspects of livestock handling and husbandry, and feed budgeting.
Skills taught in the classroom are able to be applied out in the paddock. Cadets graduate work-ready with several qualifications.
“When I started there I knew that sheep and cows ate grass and that was about the extent of my farming knowledge,” she laughed.
Over the past two-and-a-half years Kristy has worked hard to expand her skills and knowledge.
In May, she was named the winner of the 2019 Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer Award.
The announcement was made at a gala awards function in Gisborne attended by 600 guests including the Minister of Agriculture.
The Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer Award is designed to recognised talented up-and-coming young Māori farmers.
“Winning the award has been an amazing experience. It’s been a great way to get my name out there and will look good on my curriculum vitae (CV) when I want to step up to a manager’s position,” she said.
As part of the award, Kristy went to the Fieldays with AgResearch and attended a dinner focusing on disruptive technologies in the agri-food sector.
She was encouraged to enter the awards by her mother.
“I submitted my application two days before entries closed,” she said.
“I was nervous about entering and putting myself out there, but then I realised I had nothing to be afraid of, so I gave it a go.”
Lead judge Peter Little said Kristy exemplified all that is good about young Māori who are making successful careers in the primary sector.
“Kristy has shown great commitment to her work, excellent leadership and will do a great job as a role model for other young people contemplating a career in the agribusiness sector,” he said.
As part of the awards process Kristy got to go on a two-day study tour with the other two finalists.
“It was extremely beneficial. I got introduced to a number of industry professionals. I really enjoyed the leadership and goal setting course run by PrimaryITO,” she said.
It’s not just soccer that brings Kristy into Gisborne after work. She’s been a member of the area’s growing NZ Young Farmers club since 2017.
“I joined not long after it was started. We began with about five paid up members, but we’ve got close to 20 now,” she said.
New members are constantly joining the club. Kristy urges anyone under the age of 31, especially those new to the area, attend a meeting.
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