Shirley and Steve Trumper have been farming together in the Waikite Valley near Rotorua since 1985, but nowadays you're more likely to see Shirley in the council chamber than the milking shed.
The couple bought Steve's parents' 56ha farm in 1985 and since then they have added more than 300ha to their landholding that carries 500 milking cows on 190ha. The rest is used for beef and dry stock with about 40ha of runoff.
Hector ‘Hec’ and Natalie Trumper gained their foothold in Waikite Valley when they acquired a ballot farm in 1963. Shirley and Steve still own the original farm and now one of their two sons, Darrell, and his wife Jasmine, are 49 per cent equity partners in the family business.
Farm and Council
While Steve works the land with his son and their two workers, Shirley has an active governance role in the local rural community and in October 2018 was elected for her second term to the Rotorua Lakes Council's Rural Community Board, of which she is now chairperson.
Although she won't describe herself as a politician, Shirley's a straight talker and likes to get things done.
"That's not always easy when working with local government, things move a lot more slowly there than they do on the farm.”
Building relationships, community engagement and bringing a rural perspective to the council are her main roles, while she also sits on the council's Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee.
"I meet and talk with community members and take their concerns or issues to council officers and lead the board in all matters rural – from serious issues like the recent Plan Change 3 SNAs (Significant Natural Areas) to road repairs and everything in between.
She was first elected in 2016 and at that time had no previous political experience, so it was a baptism by fire learning how local government works.
Active in the community
Shirley keeps busy outside of council, too.
She’s a member on the Livestock Improvement Honoraria Committee, DairyNZ Remuneration Committee, and the Institute of Directors.
She's the Rotorua Lakes Council's Resource Management Act Committee chair, leads the Reporoa Community Patrol, volunteers at Reporoa Community Policing and has volunteered at the Citizens Advice Bureau since 2007.
Shirley says she’d like to use her newfound experience to help rural landowners through some significant challenges.
"Both the Bay of Plenty and Waikato regional councils plan changes are placing pressure on the way we will need to manage our farms.
"Our rural villages also need critical infrastructure to achieve the type of growth our urban counterparts are seeking."
As far as the new freshwater legislation goes, she's a bit more pragmatic.
"I see this legislation as aspirational, but I do not believe the timeframes are realistic.
"Farming is not a static industry and income is dependent on a number of factors, therefore any change needs to be methodical and sustainable."