Farming grit takes on Godzone


666 km of running, kayaking, rafting, orienteering and mountain biking staged over eight days - there’s no doubt about it, GodZone is not for the faint of heart.

But perhaps there’s something about the grit and daily graft of dairy farming because several Fonterra staff and farmers were among the hardy competitors.

It’s the world’s largest expedition adventure race - no outside help is allowed and all clothing and food for the full event has to be carried.

Fonterra brand ambassador and former All Black captain, Richie McCaw.

Courtesy: Godzone

Teams of four train for months for this event and while the scenery is world class, it’s perhaps not quite enough of a distraction for what is a grueling test of perseverance, teamwork and co-operation. 

Fonterra brand ambassador and former All Black Captain Richie McCaw was among the competitors and his team, iSport, came second overall at the Rotorua-based ultra-race, coming in nine hours after the winning team, Avaya, who completed it in a mind-boggling five days.

It was the third Godzone for Fonterra’s Farm Source Bay of Plenty Regional Head, Lisa Payne, who competed with her team ‘Chafing the Dream.’ Lisa’s a regular on the multi-sport event roll-call, but she says Godzone is the toughest of the lot, “You don’t do Godzone for fun. You do it to push yourself. There was one day I couldn’t hold down food.”

You’re pretty physical, being outdoors and you do some long days as farmers. And it makes you mentally tough.

kate moore, Edgecumbe sharemilker

Lisa’s team crossed the finish line within the allowed eight days, but didn’t rank, because they opted to miss out one of the stages after stern warnings from officials about their safety. The weather was closing in and competitors who’d already gone up the mountain before them had suffered hypothermia and had to be helicoptered out. Instead, Chafing the Dream opted to forgo sleep and head straight to the kayak stage. Starting at 8pm, they didn’t complete the 59km paddle on Lake Taupo until 7am, the next morning. “At one stage we all started hallucinating,” Lisa explains, while also saying it was her favourite part of the race! But that makes sense, given she admits having “a positive mindset” is a crucial attribute.

This year Godzone was staged on Lisa’s home turf, the Bay of Plenty. The race started and ended in Rotorua, taking competitors in a giant loop through volcanic terrain, up mountains, down rivers, over lakes and through forests. Edgecumbe sharemilkers Sam and Kate Moore and Opotiki-based Josh Hedley also enjoyed the home advantage when racing with their team the Intruders. “We’ve hunted in a lot of the areas where we were competing, so that helped,” says Sam. Kate also appreciated being able to see her region in a new way, “The scenery was pretty awesome. We were in beautiful bush, around Lakes Rotoma, Rotoiti, Rotoehu, Tarawera. And pack rafting down the Mohaka River was exciting.”

Lisa Payne’s team, ‘Chafing the Dream’.

Courtesy: Godzone

The mum of three kids (the youngest just one year old) says teamwork played a big part in the competition, “we all had times over the course where one of us was feeling sick or sore. If one of us wasn’t feeling great we’d take weight out of their pack and carry it for them.” Kate also says she thinks being dairy farmers helps with preparation for Godzone, ”You’re pretty physical, being outdoors and you do some long days as farmers. And it makes you mentally tough.”

The Intruders team, left to right: Sam Moore, Kate Moore, Josh Hedley, Toby Barkla.

Courtesy: Godzone

Among the other local farmers who competed were Matt Pepper and Shane Armstrong, who both agree that dairy farming is a great way to get racers ready, “as farmers, you’re used to being out in all weather,” says Matt.

The Intruders finished 20th overall, and Sam says they’re “stoked” about finishing the course. He and Kate are already thinking about next year’s event, “we would all be keen to give it another crack.” For the meantime, all the farmers are straight back to the day job milking cows and Lisa Payne’s positive attitude is back to work at Farm Source, and back to a teamwork of a different kind.