The Country Calendar episode about Geoff and Justine Ross’ Lake Hawea Station has come under criticism online. Video / TVNZ
The bible of luxury travel, Conde Nast Traveler, has singled out the South Island’s Lake Hāwea Station as one of the most impressive, “can’t-believe-this-place-could-possibly-exist retreats you’ll ever be lucky enough to stay in”.
A year after Kiwi entrepreneurs Geoff and Justine Ross’ first certified carbon-zero Australasian farm screened on Hyundai Country Calendar, sparking a backlash from the wider farming community about their supposed “woke” style, the couple’s disrupter style of farming is getting global recognition.
“When influencers with the global gravitas of CNT recognise New Zealand businesses and Climate Positive work, then it gives us hope we are getting somewhere,” the couple tell Spy.
“As always we are proud to represent the best of New Zealand to the world, be that in farming, tourism or consumer brands.”
The couple went back to their rural roots in 2019 after selling their vodka company 42 Below and buying the high-country property. They converted it into a carbon-zero certified farm, where they now run a 10,000-merino sheep station.
A-listers from across the world have come to stay. Although the couple won’t name names, a roam around the farm might give some hints.
“The only sign there will ever be that A-listers have been or are here is a plaque in their name planted in a regenerative forest which is growing in height and mass every week thanks to the recognition we are gaining.”
One of their plaque names did slip out from Justine with pride, that of Sir Jonathon Porritt, adviser to King Charles and a lifelong climate activist.
Conde Nast said it liked the juxtaposition between the rugged Kiwi farm culture that visitors want and the sophisticated taste that defines this country’s luxury-lodge circuit. But the added bonus of the 6500ha property’s true point of difference is its pioneering ethos in New Zealand’s approach to cultivation and sustainability.
“To be recognised as one of four properties in the world in the luxury sustainability category with a gold award from Conde Nast is thrilling for two reasons — we have been Conde Nast Traveler followers our whole adult lives and because it signals the much-needed shift toward sustainable climate positive tourism,” the couple say.
CNT is the latest in a string of international shout-outs. A BBC article on wool as a wonder fabric, which involved designers like environmental superstar Stella McCartney, praised the farm for turning itself into a carbon sink by pulling emissions from the atmosphere through native forest restoration and other techniques which make the production of sheep’s wool regenerative.
The regenerative reputation of the wools has seen two Vogue articles, alongside fellow Kiwi brand Allbirds, which is using the station’s wool in its soon-to-launch M0.0NSHOT trainers due out next month.
Justine says there will be more big news to come soon.
“We are currently working with one of the world’s most known luxury fashion houses on a very secret project — so good for NZ farming.”
The couple featured on Hyundai Country Calendar in June last year. It quickly attracted an intense online backlash from those purporting to be from parts of the farming sector, leading to the TVNZ show replying to the criticism on its Facebook page.
Among their practices were placing mattresses at the bottom of the porthole chutes to protect the sheep and a scorecard system was introduced for shearers’ performance based on the experience of the animal.
They also introduced alternative techniques to the wool shed to improve animal welfare, including switching music from AC/DC’s Thunderstruck to Vivaldi.