Big force of Maori farming takes spiritual approach to the land and environment

Mavis Mullins, a Maori success story for women.  She says Maori farming is worth $42 billion.
PHOTO: WARWICK SMITH / FAIRFAX NZ

Mavis Mullins, a Maori success story for women. She says Maori farming is worth $42 billion.

Maori take a spiritual approach to the land and environment, says Mavis Mullins.

If people cared to listen, the land would tell them what it needed, Mullins told about 100 people in an Unleashing the Maui address at a Rural Business Network (RBN) meeting near Palmerston North.

"For us, she has a name, Papatuanuku and that makes it easier to think of her needs."

Mullins is chairwoman of two Maori farms and leader of several Maori trusts.

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Mullins said she would rather be known as a dairy farmer, a mother and grandmother who loved the land.

But it was her role as chairwoman of Aohanga Incorporation and Atihau-Whanganui Incorporation that she spoke on behalf of at the RBN meeting.

Aohanga is a 7300 hectares coastal steep property southeast of Dannevirke.  "It is steep and a fragile land," she said.  

Atihau-Whanganui is a big property with more than 40,000ha and ran 200,000 stock units near Mount Ruapehu.

Mullins said 700 people came to its annual meeting each year.

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"And they are all farmers and tell us what to do," she laughed.

Mullins said her interest in the property comes from her father's side and she has so many aunties she feels strongly accountable.

"We don't get away with much."

Mullins said the farms would never be sold, and were intergenerational.

"With decisions, we think of how will benefit our mokopuna, our grandchildren.  We have developed a 100-year plan.  People have said that's not viable, but people of the land know that is only three forestry rotations," she said.

"Science tells us about soil, air and water quality, and some people listen.  It is head stuff, but we need heart stuff as well. Listen with love to the land.  I am not sure we're doing that now.  Papatuanuku, she has a face for us. And we have to start thinking of the environment as a person."

Mullins said Atihau-Whanganui had done a deal with its wool going to Sweden to be made into slippers, and were in the throes of doing a red meat deal, with the United States equivalent of the New Zealand 'My Food Bag' venture.

"And we need a conservation corridor. I am very excited we have kiwi at Atihau-Whangaui.  But we need genetic spread. We are talking to Tuwharetoa [in Central North Island] about having a native corridor for our wildlife, with bush all connecting up, so species can move between."

She said it was great to be involved in many different roles in Maoridom.

"Technology allows us to stay in our communities which is a great thing for all of us."

Technology was uppermost in Mullins' mind when she talked about the movie Moana.

"If you haven't seen it yet, pick up a kid and go."

She said Maui, a god of Maori, was fearless, a tad careless, arrogant, but a trail-blazer and an explorer.

"The female Moana was a highly ethical person, bold and spirited.  She was determined, but she was all about the people," Mullins said.

Mullins completed her address by saying Maori farming had a lot of potential.

"There is still some 'old school' thinking.  We need it to move aside. If you are not innovating, you are stagnating," she said.

"I am excited about what the primary industry can do for New Zealand Inc.  We have not got time to muck around and get precious about everything.  The Maori economy is worth $42 billion now and wants more."  

 

 - Stuff

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