Tuesday, 28 May 2024 12:55

Farming helps Young Maori Farmer turn over a new leaf

Written by  Peter Burke
Ahuwhenua Young Moari Farmer Ben Purua and partner Nikki at the awards.. Photo- Alphapix Ahuwhenua Young Moari Farmer Ben Purua and partner Nikki at the awards.. Photo- Alphapix

Emotions spilled over when the winner of the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Dairy Farmer was announced at a gala dinner attended by 860 people in Hamilton recently.

When 29-year-old Ben Purua's name was read out, it was immediately followed by spontaneous waiata and haka. Purua is the farm manager at Waimakariri Lands Ltd near Tirau and this is the second time he has entered the competition, missing out three years ago.

The announcement was made by Dr Charlotte Severne, the Māori Trustee and chief executive of Te Tumu Paeroa before an audience which included the Minister of Māori Development, Tama Potaka and the Minister of Finance, Nicola Willis. Other guests included the Māori King, diplomats from the United Kingdom, Ireland, The European Union and Canada, leading Māori representatives, politicians from central and local government, agribusiness leaders, previous winners and whanau from all the finalists.

The other two finalists in the competition were Hannah Speakman and Shayden Gardiner.

When Severne made the announcement there was huge outpouring of emotion both on the stage and among the audience. Severne says there wasn't a dry eye on the stage.

"I think for Ben, the first time he entered the competition he was magnificent, but this time his story was about his farming work. He was a lot lighter, a lot more of his skills came through and I felt that we were not weighed down with his past, but we were very much in his future," she says.

Severne praised all the finalists and says the country needs a hundred more young people like them to enter the primary sector. She also presented each of them with a $7,500 scholarship that they can use to further develope their careers.

Purua thanked his Whanau and friends and paid a special tribute to his wife Nikki whom he says has been his greatest supporter and who encouraged him to enter the competition again. He says missing out the first time was a bit of a 'kick in the guts' but it was a learning curve and he took the opportunity to see where he could improve.

"Farming has been my saviour. I don't know where I would have been today without. It saved my life, saved my family and I hope I can now help other families to break the cycle," he says.

Representing the judging panel, lead judge Matiu Julian of Primary ITO said every year they are dealing with amazing young people who have invested in their own careers and looking to take the opportunity to grow.

"The whole competition is about personal development and transitions to take the finalists into new spaces where they get to meet a whole new whanau who enable them to grow, connect and learn," he says.

Julian says over the past three years Purua has grown exponentially and now wants to support his community and be a representative of the Ahuwhenua community.

Amazing Story

DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel was one of many farming leaders present on the night. He says you could feel the passion in the room and what the awards meant to the people and their family and friends.

He says an example of this was Ben Purua; his story is amazing and he deserves great credit for the way he's turned his life around. He says you could see how much that meant to him and his whanau.

"We need to share Ben's story because it is so amazing how he had made good after some terrible times in his life. We need to share this story, not just with the dairy industry but with the wider public, because it is such a good story," he says.

Van der Poel says the Ahuwhenua Awards are a fantastic event that showcases excellence in the dairy industry.

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