Far North farm wins Maori excellence in farming award
The Omapere Rangihamama Trust farm near Kaikohe has taken top honours in the Ahuwhenua Trophy BNZ Māori Excellence in Farming Award for the best sheep and beef farm.
The other two finalists were RA and JG King Partnership of Puketawa Station near Eketahuna and Pukepoto Farm Trust at Ongarue near Taumarunui.
Omapere is a 902 hectare mixed sheep and beef property which is in the process of transitioning into a mainly bull beef rearing operation.
The trophy along with a special medal and a replica trophy was presented to trust chairman Raniera (Sonny) Tau. The trust also received more than $40,000 in prizes.
Ahuwhenua trophy management committee chairman Kingi Smiler said the trust had a strong commitment to improving the environment of the property which was benefiting its whānau and other people in the district.
The farm borders Lake Omapere and since 2007, the present trustees of the property had embarked on an extensive strategic plan to improve the farm. The judges who selected Omapere as one of the three finalists in the competition noted many positives including the clear strategy of the Trust, its contribution to education and its overall farm performance.
"New Zealand is fortunate to have Māori farmers because it is in their DNA as kaitiaki to manage the fragile environment and invest for future generations. This spiritual closeness to the land is vital in a modern society where consumers not only want food, they want assurance that it is done sustainably and ethically," Smiler said.
In the past the farm ran a combination of sheep and beef. The planned move away from sheep to beef has largely been driven by better returns for bull beef and poorer returns for wool, sheep and lamb.
It is mainly undulating country with some flats making it ideal as a finishing farm. The bulls are bought in as rising one year olds and then sold on as two year olds. The stock are grass fed only.
A manager and three staff run the farm and they report to a farm committee comprising of a consultant, a shareholder, the trust's accountant and a trustee chosen for their specialist farm knowledge, skills and attributes.
The Ahuwhenua Trophy is the most prestigious award for Māori agriculture. Māori leader Sir Apirana Ngata and then-Governor General Lord Bledisloe launched the award 84 years ago.
The competition continued up until the 1980s but interest started to wane and the last of the original competitions was held in 1990. It was re-launched in 2003.