OPINION: Damien O'Connor is never one to shy away from speaking his mind and ruffling a few feathers, and in a nice way he did this at Federated Farmers’ conference last week.
Chairman Roku Mihinui accepted the Ahuwhenua Trophy at Saturday night's awards dinner at Auckland's SkyCity Convention Centre, on behalf of his farm staff, board, trustees and shareholders.
"Look after Mother Nature and she'll look after you. Recognise when she is stressed and work with her as naturally as possible to achieve a sustainable environment," he said.
The Kapenga M Trust, a dairy farm operation, has 915 shareholders of Tuhourangi descent.
The Governor General Jerry Mateparae presented Mihinui with the trophy before an enthusiastic audience of over 580 people.
Sponsor BNZ's head of agribusiness Richard Bowman, who presented the winner with a gold medal, said BNZ had long recognised Maori agribusiness is a dynamic part of the wider sector.
"We have sponsored the competition for 10 years now and have seen it, and the farms it showcases, go from strength to strength and become industry leading businesses for the benefit of their iwi, communities and the country as a whole.
"We're truly honoured to partner with this prestigious award and recognise the mana associated with all who are connected."
The other two finalists in the competition were Tauhara Moana Trust (Taupo) and Wharepi Whanau Trust, (Te Puke).
Chair of the Ahuwhenua competition's management committee, Kingi Smiler said the success of Kapenga M highlights the sophistication of an increasing number of highly successful Maori owned agribusinesses.
"At the heart of their success is the priority they put on environmental and cultural concerns. They know that as the current caretakers of their land they are responsible for ensuring this precious resource is available to future generations to provide for themselves and their families and to contribute to the wealth and prosperity of the whole country," he said.
The Ahuwhenua Trophy is the premier award for Maori in agriculture. It acknowledges and celebrates business excellence in the New Zealand pastoral sector and is open to Maori farming properties either owned individually, or managed by Maori Trusts and Incorporations in New Zealand.
Each year it alternates between beef and sheep farms and dairy farms. This is the fourth year since the competition was revived in 2003 that entrants have competed for the Ahuwhenua Trophy for excellence in Maori dairy farming.
The winner of the Young Maori Farmer Cadet/Trainee Award was announced earlier in the evening. The inaugural winner was Tangaroa Walker (Ranginui/Pukenga). This, another prestigious award, is sponsored by AgITO, Te Puni Kokiri, Allflex and Maori Trustee.
BNZ is the platinum sponsor for the Ahuwhenua Award. Gold sponsors are Fonterra, DairyNZ and Te Puni Kokiri. Silver sponsors are AgResearch, AgITO, PGG Wrightson and Ballance Agri-Nutrients. Bronze sponsors are the Ministry for Primary Industries, Allflex, AFFCO, BDO, Maori Trustee, LIC, Re:Gen and Polaris. Sponsor support was also be supplied by Tohu Wines, FOMA, Landcorp, Agrecovery, DB Breweries and Ecolab.