Wī Pere Trust won the 2022 Ahuwhenua Trophy on the night. Photo / Alphapix.co.nz
Hundreds gathered in Napier last week to celebrate the Ahuwhenua Māori Excellence in farming awards for beef and sheep.
The Ahuwhenua Trophy acknowledges and celebrates business excellence in New Zealand's important pastoral and horticultural sectors.
Every year, the competition alternates between the categories of dairy, sheep and beef, and, as of recently, horticulture.
The trophy has three trustees: Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson, Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor and Te Puni Kōkiri chief executive Dave Samuels. They delegate the running of the competition to the Ahuwhenua Trophy management committee.
Committee chair Nukuhia Hadfield says support from sponsors has been unwavering, considering the challenging year of Covid and extreme weather events.
O'Connor supported this by saying that the whenua is indeed under immense pressure.
"It has been wet, we've seen slips, roads and soils being washed out and immense pressure on our waterways. But the whenua is connected to the planet and the planet is under pressure too.
"So we have a responsibility to do our bit for the three million in New Zealand who rely on the whenua for a better future because, if we think we can look after the whenua and ignore the planet, we are dreaming," O'Connor said.
But beyond nature's cry for help, it was a night to celebrate what is being done in its recovery.
Wī Pere Trust won the 2022 Ahuwhenua Trophy. It operates 6500 hectares in the Whatatutu region of Gisborne.
Chairman Alan Haronga says the late Wī Pere experienced the devastating effects of colonisation and the loss of Māori land.
As a politician for some 28 years, he advocated strongly for the retention and development of land and Māori ownership and control.
"That's the legacy he left with us," Haronga says.
Onuku Māori Land Trust from Rerewhakaaitu, Rotorua was also one of the trophy finalists.
The history is integral to the way its farms are operated today, according to trustee Ken Raureti.
"You get to the Tarawera eruption, everything was annihilated and we didn't stay. In our absence, the Crown then took the opportunity to acquire our lands, partitioned it off, and offered it to returning soldiers from the wars to establish new lives.
"The pain of that is that our people weren't allowed into the ballots for those petition blocks, which are all on our lands," Raureti says.
Hereheretau station was the trophy's third finalist from Whakakii, Wairoa. Established in 1917, it was set up to help Māori veterans from World War I.
Julliane Ceville from the Māori Soldiers Committee says that through the success of the farm operation they work alongside iwi whenua to perpetuate their responsibility to improve the wellbeing of Māori farmers and their whānau as an expression of Māori rights and equal citizenship.
"Like our tūpuna we are navigators and we're taught to use the sun and stars to help us understand where we are and where we are going. All of us are navigators and leaders in the pursuit of excellence in Māori farming," Ceville said.
This wonderful event was a credit to Māori culture, which is rooted in the preservation of the land and the breeding of its kararehe (animals), though Hadfield says the work is not yet done.
"I encourage our decision-makers and policy writers to not only attend a field day but also to actually take time to meet our farmers throughout the year - to develop relationships and understandings of what it's like to be a farmer to learn about the rural communities that we live and to recognise the economic benefit of what we contribute to Aotearoa," Hadfield said.
The Māori Economy report shows the value of agriculture, forestry and horticulture to Māori as $23.372 billion of a $68.689 billion asset base or about 34 per cent of our Māori gross domestic production.
It was also a big night for the three Young Māori farmer finalists, Chloe Butcher-Herries (Ngāti Mahanga) Puhirere Tau (Ngati Porou) and Rameka Edwards (Ngāpuhi)
This award was inaugurated in 2012 for young Māori working in the agricultural sector.
Chloe Butcher-Herries, right, (Ngāti Mahangaoto) and partner Makita Butcher-Herries. Photo / Alphapix.co.nz
Proudly representing the mana of women and the power of takatāpui, Chloe Butcher-Herries (30) received this honour. She is from Nāgti Mahanga and works as the assistant manager at Newstead Farm for bull and beef.
She has a special grasp of and experience in the agricultural sector in a field where men predominate, and in her acceptance speech gave her wife extra credit for the fruits of her labour.
"My ataahua, my backbone, my wife, Makita. She puts up with my smelly work clothes and cooks a mean feed," she says.
Next year the competition will be for horticulture and will see the celebration of 90 years since its inception. The entries are now open and will be held in Tauranga on June 9.