Mark and Chris Stoddart

Creating family futures in Central Hawke's Bay

  • Mark and Chris Stoddart

    Arataura Station sits on the Central Hawke's Bay coast.

The Stoddarts have been farming in Porangahau, on the Central Hawke’s Bay coast for more than 88 years; four generations developing the land to ensure a bright and secure future for the family.

In the late 1970s, Walter and Frances Stoddart, along with son Mark and his wife Chris, began working on an expansion plan to increase the family’s coastal farm, Arataura Station to 771 hectares.  The land was divided into eight paddocks, without a home, a woolshed or stock handling facilities.

“You could say we were pioneers,” laughs Mark.  “We set about getting the road extended, building a home and farm facilities.”  With the assistance of the Rural Bank, the government’s Land Development Encouragement Loan scheme and Livestock Incentive Scheme, the Stoddarts have created a substantial farming operation.

“The government programmes worked well.  Without such schemes, we would definitely have struggled to keep farming,” says Mark.

In 1992, Mark and Chris took an opportunity to purchase a neighbouring block of 481 hectares (Te Ana).  This has increased to 680 hectares with two further land purchases.

The farms were divided between two of the couple’s three sons.  Eldest son Wade and wife Helen run Arataura Station, while Guy and Karoline run Te Ana.

During the late 1970s, the Stoddarts formed a family trust, under the guidance of Moore Stephens Markhams director Barry Rosenberg, the family’s accountant and a succession planning specialist. “Barry was instrumental in helping us set up the Trust and ensuring it worked for all parties; my parents, Chris and I, our children and my siblings.  The advice he gave us around transferring ownership from one generation to another was invaluable,” says Mark.

In 2005, the youngest Stoddart son, Sam, expressed an interest in farming and in 2008 the Trust purchased Ngapua, a 745 hectare block south west of Porangahau, which Sam now farms with his wife Jen.

Working through the succession planning has been “relatively straightforward” according to Mark.  “I have three sisters who were also beneficiaries of my father’s trust.  It was his wish that they owned the 35 hectare property on the beach.  Chris and I purchased it from them in January this year as our home and we love it.”

Although the family owns three farms, Mark spends the bulk of his time “helping out” at Arataura with Wade.

“I really do enjoy farming and am very grateful for the opportunity given to me to practice it.  To be able to give our sons the same opportunity is wonderful – it’s been hard and serious amounts of money are involved, but the boys are settled and the farms are successful,” Mark says.

Through close management of the farms and their respective finances, the three operations have expanded production, whilst reducing debt.  Doable, realistic production targets are set, debt reduction goals are set and most importantly, the family are all motivated to succeed sustainably into the future, thereby securing their family’s future in the industry.

“Absolutely it’s been a journey.  But we’re very happy with the progress.  My parents were work horses, with a great work ethic and we appreciate the hard graft they put in to the land.  We’re very fortunate.”

Although Mark’s father Walter, now in his late 80s, is no longer able to farm, Mark says it was only a few years ago that he stopped driving tractors.  As for future generations, Mark and Chris have three grandchildren and three on the way – “I’d like to think there’d be farmers amongst them somewhere,” quips Mark.

The three farms are physically apart, but financially under one umbrella, with Barry working with all members of the family.  “We all get together with Barry regularly and it’s a good combination.  The boys enjoy working with Barry too – he’s a big part of our success story.”

Published Summer 2013.

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