Making horticulture an industry to bring whānau back to their Wairoa whenua

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

A Hawke's Bay iwi is hoping horticulture will be the drawcard to keep whānau from leaving their rohe and eventually bring other whānau back home.

Treaty settlement group Tātau Tātau o Te Wairoa (TTOTW) is investing in orchards for its people, planting 10 hectares in Envy apples last year, with plans to plant another 50 this year.

Horticultural operation chair Tom Keefe says that although the move is to invest in its people to provide jobs, it’s to utilise their land more.

“We’re situated between two of the best growing regions in the world, being Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay, so it was a really easy decision to make when it comes to horticultural crops,” Keefe says.

When it comes to times after the harvest, Keefe is looking at making the season longer, for people to retain their jobs.

“It’s not just about the picking of the apple, it’s also the cool storing, the packing and shipping. Having post-harvest facilities in our region, we can add another three or four months to their employment.

'Pretty big task'

“We’ve got training opportunities, financial benefits. It puts us in a place to raise the household income in our rohe, and create meaningful jobs, jobs that they can take around the world.”

Keefe says it’s still early days in seeing people back on the whenua at the moment.

“What I am trying to prevent is people leaving our rohe, and, if I can, return people here. Urbanisation hit us hard with people moving out to find jobs, [find] a better life, so I need to bring those people back eventually with that skill set that they’ve gained. I need them to come home.

As the borders reopen and many more people are leaving than returning, Keefe says “the stats are at the wrong end of the scale”.

“For Māori and our region, we’re no different from other stats at the low socio-economic range. By creating jobs and an opportunity we’re trying to create an industry. It’s a pretty big task.

“Wairoa doesn’t have horticulture as an industry. We’re trying to transplant that in the best growing region in the world.”