GP practice, strawberry farm and honey grows Te Rūnanga o Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa business investments

By Tamati Tiananga

In two months' time, Te Rūnanga o Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa will be handed the keys to a facility it says will tackle broader health issues in the region.

Te Rūnanga o Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa chief executive Grant Huwyler says the iwi has been the hub for the Rangitikei for vaccination "and more recent times we worked with an iwi collective called Te Ranga Tupua to access mobile services.

"We set up a mobile service to service Rangitīkei and we got right in the Covid-19 space with the government to work with Iwi."

Now it has bought a GP practice.

'Owning a GP practice is going to be new to us but we've got some good people involved to help set the governance up. We've got to have the capability sorted to do that well."

Omicron outbreak    

Today the Ministry of Health reported 85 new community cases of Covid-19 in the Whanganui region. There are six people in Whanganui Hospital with Covid-19 on Monday.

Nationally, the ministry reported 6000 new community cases of Covid-19.

There are 363 people who were hospitalised with Covid-19 while nine further people have died from Covid-19.

So buying the practice is a timely investment given the spike of Covid-19 cases across the region in recent weeks.

"We take that over in July. It's all part of a drive to position ourselves as the leader in the southern Rangitikei when it comes to the provision of primary health care."

Mātauranga-focused

The iwi’s headquarters facility, once home to the 110-year-old Turakina Girls College which closed in 2005, has become a hub for health and education services.

Huwyler says, "We've been delivering Whānau Ora-type services here and been inspired by our pou kuia, Dame Taria Turia. We've been delivering Whānau Ora here since the late 1990s and with that concept, we have launched into the health concept.”

“These are the benefits in some cases that can be targeted to our uri – beneficiaries. In other cases, we can focus on the general public and wider rohe.”

This latest investment will see a Māori-led strategy provide quality health service for Māori and the wider community in southern Rangitikei, becoming the lead primary health care provider in the district.

Honey and strawberries

“We have a strawberry farm that’s going to launch in July and were also part of a limited partnership that owns a Flock House(former agricultural training school) farm near Bulls, which we now call Te Hou farms, with dairy and livestock,” Huwylers says.

“Everything learned through our direct investments in honey, farming and in horticulture is our people getting those lessons.”

“We have a land base and parts of the land base are still bush. So it seemed logical, when manuka honey was the craze, to have a go. The key to get involved is we had a husband and wife from the iwi who were keen to give it a go.”

“We made an arrangement and gave it a go. The business has had its ups and downs but again it’s a direct investment that we have been pleased with and they’ve had a very good productive year.”

Employment opportunities

Huwylers says, “One area that we’ve demonstrated our commitment to our uri – beneficiaries - is in employment.  We are getting close to around 70 employees across the group and at least 50 of those are uri. We are keen to keep those proportions high and that’s one way we can deliver a benefit in the short term.”