Tuesday, 05 March 2024 11:55

2024 Ahuwhenua finalists named

Written by  Peter Burke
Agriculture Minister Todd McClay (left) and Maori Development Minister Tama Potaka (right) with Whakatohea Trust chair Robert Edwards and Wairarapa Moana chair Kingi Smiler at the launch. Photo Credit: John Cowpland. Agriculture Minister Todd McClay (left) and Maori Development Minister Tama Potaka (right) with Whakatohea Trust chair Robert Edwards and Wairarapa Moana chair Kingi Smiler at the launch. Photo Credit: John Cowpland.

Two dairy farms – one at Mangakino in the central North Island and one at Opotiki in the Eastern Bay of Plenty are the finalists in this year’s Ahuwhenua Trophy.

They are Wairarapa Moana ki Pouakani Incorporation, based in Mangakino, and Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board, based in Opotiki. They were announced at a special function at Parliament by the Minister for Māori Development, Tama Potaka. Also speaking at the event was the Minister of Agriculture Todd McClay.

About 100 people – politicians, diplomats, Māori and agribusiness leaders and the finalists themselves –attended the function. Potaka told the gathering how pleased he was to see such a high calibre of Māori dairy farms featured as finalists this year.

He says the finalists excellence in the dairy sector and, through their innovation and hard work, are inspiring the next generation of Māori farmers.

“Māori farming is a critical anchor of the Māori economy and a powerful driver of the New Zealand economy. I’m particularly proud of the way so many Māori farmers balance economic benefit with sustainable environmental protection,” he says.

Nukuhia Hadfield, chair of the Ahuwhenua Trophy Management Committee, which organises the competition, says the dairy sector, like all primary sectors, faces huge challenges such as global financial disruption, war, rising costs and some major markets that are taking longer than expected to recover from the Covid pandemic.

“Our dairy farmers are not immune from these challenges, but this has not deterred them from entering this year’s competition,” she says.

Field days, which the public are invited to attend, will be at Wairarapa Moana on Thursday March 28 and on Thursday April 4 at Whakatohea. The winner will be announced at a function in Hamilton on May 17.

Largest Supplier To Miraka

Wairarapa Moana Incorporation’s (WMI) currently consists of 12 dairy units across 4300ha plus three dairy support units comprising 1900 ha and two forestry blocks totalling 6100ha.

It aims to produce 5 million kgMS from its 12,000 cow herd and is the largest supplier to milk processor Miraka Ltd, of which it is a cornerstone shareholder.

The history of Wairarapa Moana dates to the original colonisation of Wairarapa in 1840. The local hapu had valuable landholdings and customary fishing rights for tuna in and around Lake Wairarapa. However, by the late 1800s continual pressure from farmer settlers and Crown coercion ultimately led to the hapu gifting the lake to the Crown in 1896 in exchange for other lands in the Wairarapa.

The Crown did not honour the original agreement and were not prepared to source lands locally in Wairarapa, so in 1915 with great reluctance the hapu leaders at that time accepted the land known as the Pouakani 2 Block in Mangakino.

WMI has entered one of its dairy units into the Ahuwhenua Trophy Competition, which has a milking platform of 300 hectares, milking 980 cows and producing 416,000 kgMS.

WMI chair Kingi Smiler says it’s a privilege to be in the finals. He says the WMI is a big farm but a lot of work has been down over the last 20 years and they have made steady progress and it’s great to be able to showcase some of that to the people who come to the field days. “The story about the success of Māori agriculture is slowing getting out there but it still needs a lot of work and the Ahuwhenua competition helps keep that profile out there,” he says.

Food Bowl That Feeds The World

Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board’s dairy farm, named Te Riu o Kānapanapa, is a collective of five dairy farms and is located 4km south of Ōpōtiki.

The dairy platform is 218ha effective made up of 175.7ha of corpus whenua, 29ha addition to the block and 13.3ha leased. The 3-4 farming system has helped balance on farm feed and external sourcing.

The land is flat and is made up of alluvial soil, with loam, sand, stones and acidic clay on some parts of the blocks. The Waioweka river runs the length of the dairy farm and has a stop bank in place to protect the land.

The farm winters 748 cows and milks 690 to peak. They rear stock at Whakapaupākihi, a 346ha support block 10km north of Matawai in the Gisborne catchment. This financial year they raised 190 R1 heifers, 190 dairy heifer calves and 350 beef calves. There are four permanent staff on-farm and one casual, along with two calf rearers when required.

Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board’s vision is for it to be the food bowl that feeds the world – “Ko Te Kai Hoki i Waiaua”. This vision confirms their entrepreneurial spirit, weaving together our six strategic pou: cultural identity, language and heritage, being well educated, healthy, socially connected, economically and commercially savvy.

The chair of the trust, Robert Edwards, says they are delighted to be a finalist in the competition. He says a lot of hard work from their farm manager and from the Whakatohea Trust board has gone into getting the farm to its present high standard.

Edwards says they decided about a year ago to enter the competition.

“I am very happy with what we have done and it’s a great for us just to be in the finals. I am looking forward to the outcome,” he says.

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