Saturday, 18 May 2024 17:00

Purua's transformation capped with Ahuwhenua award

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Ahuwhenua Young Maori Farmer of the Year winner Ben Purua. Photo: Alphapix.nz Ahuwhenua Young Maori Farmer of the Year winner Ben Purua. Photo: Alphapix.nz

South Waikato farm manager Ben Purua’s amazing transformation from gang life to milking cows was rewarded with the Ahuwhenua Young Maori Farmer award last night.

Purua, 29 beat the two other finalists for the top prize, awarded before 850 people at Hamilton’s Globox Arena, formerly the Claudelands Event Centre. Attendees included the Maori King Tuheitia, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, Finance Minister Nicola Willis and Maori Development Minister Tama Potaka.

An emotional Purua thanked his iwi, partner Nikki, family and farm owners - Chap and Ashleigh Zwiers and Jack and Tiz Sheares of Tirau for their support and encouragement.

“I wasn’t the best, I wasn’t the best growing up, but I hope I make you all proud now,” he said holding back tears.

He urged all other young farmers to go hard and be the best you can.

“Thank you for pushing me and for believing in me when I did not believe in myself,” he says.

Purua says he couldn’t have achieved the award without the consistent support of family.

“Me reaching this award encourages any young Maori - no matter your background, where you come from, whatever you’ve been through - anything is possible if you put heart into it and get your mindset right.”

Purua faced adversity in his upbringing in Pukekohe, including exposure to gang life, substance abuse, and domestic violence. This led him on a journey in and out of youth prison and eventually to Waikeria Prison. However, it was during his time at Waikeria Prison that Purua discovered an opportunity to work on the prison farms and this ignited a newfound passion for farming. This transformative experience provided him with a path to positively redirect his life.

He now uses his personal journey of transformation as a presenter at the Waikeria Prison Farm open days. He also actively engages with the community, advocating for youth retention in the food and fibre sector and he serves as a council member of the Food and Fibre youth network. He recently showcased his insights in Wellington as a presenter at the Food and Fibre Centre for Vocational Excellence Conference, emphasising the importance of nurturing talent in the industry. Purua is also an active member of the Piarere Young Farmers.

Despite facing the challenge of dyslexia, Purua has successfully completed his Apprenticeship in Agriculture, along with attaining his Level 3 and Level 4 qualifications in Dairy Farming. He now uses his knowledge to assist individuals contending with dyslexia and brain injuries, providing valuable support and guidance to help them fulfil their own tertiary training requirements.

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