Te Rarawa now proud owners of Bells Produce Ltd

By D'Angelo Martin

Te Rarawa has just purchased Bells Produce, one of Northland's most iconic brands when it comes to fresh fruit and veggies.  Te Rarawa leader Haami Piripi says it's a step forward for the iwi as it opens up employment opportunities and increases their assets. 

Bells Produce has been spreading its roots in Northland for 24 years.  Departing managing and organising director Allen Bell is saddened but knows it's time to move on.

"There are four partners and we just all work together, it's a family business and now it's going to be an iwi business," he says.

Now Te Rarawa will benefit from the business venture. 

Chairman of Te Rūnanga o Te Rarawa, Piripi acknowledges the agreement and the Bell whānau.

"It's not often that we see a family from foreign descent coming to settle within a Māori community, that was unusual for us here at home.  But with this deal, our people are respected equally and we will continue to work together on an equal level".

In their largest acquisition since settlement, the northland iwi made the purchase as a strategic investment into the region's growing horticultural industry.

June McCabe, Chairman of Te Waka Pupuri Pūtea is looking forward to the opportunity that it will create for Te Rarawa.

"There's a lot of complementary elements ... that means looking into a future together, that means investment in workforce development and other sorts of infrastructure that can really take our product to the market in a bigger way and it's about promoting the Far North in that sense."

The move also opens up an opportunity to expand another 212 hectres to an adjoining farming property owned by Te Rarawa in Pukepoto.

"The land has been returned to us, which we will develop and use as a resource.  We hope that both Māori and Pākehā perspectives are shared and maintained equally to benefit both parties," says Piripi.

Te Rarawa had grown its assets from $39.8mil to $70.3mil since settlement in 2015.

"There were a lot of promises that fell through when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, one [idea] being that Māori had no place in the business world.  But from today that is no issue anymore."

The warm climate in the Far North make for perfect conditions to grow an abundance of sweet juicy fruit and fresh vegetables. Buying Bells is just the start of a long-term strategy that Te Rarawa has to grow and invest in the horticulture industry of the region.