Trusts getting the best from joining forces

DION TUUTA
Last updated 05:00 24/02/2014

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Dion Tuuta

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Parininihi ki Waitotara Incorporation is often recognised as one of the largest and most successful farming enterprises in Taranaki and held up as a positive example of Maori business. What many people do not realise is that it is not the only successful Maori farming entity operating in the region.

OPINION: Just north of Hawera, located within Nga Ruahine iwi's traditional rohe, Te Rua o Te Moko Ltd runs 500 kiwi cross cows on a 170ha effective milking platform.

It is a highly successful operation which is now into its fifth season and is producing 190,000 kgs/ms.

The quality of Te Rua o Te Moko's farming operation has been recognised, with Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples announcing them as one of three finalists for the prestigious Ahuwhenua Award for Maori Farming Excellence in Dairy. The other finalists are Putauaki Trust-Himiona Farm and Ngati Awa Farms Ltd - Ngakauroa Farm, both located in the Bay of Plenty.

What is so special about this operation is that it is an amalgam of four separate Māori trusts and a leased treaty settlement block which have combined resources to create an economically and environmentally sustainable dairy operation.

It is a clear example of the excellence that Maori can achieve through collaboration to create larger and effective commercial units, which is a model for the wider growth of Māori agribusiness.

Bringing the blocks together into one large farm marked the beginning of a new era for the 1100 land owners and has given them an exciting vision for the future.

Individually the blocks were too small to be farmed economically, but as a collective unit they are able to provide a much better financial return for their owners.

As well as operating as a commercial dairy farm, Te Rua o Te Moko Ltd also runs a training operation for descendants of shareholders that whakapapa back to the land as well as other young people.

This is run by Land Based Training and last year saw the first eight young people graduate and then obtain jobs on dairy farms. This year another eight young people are in training.

The annual Ahuwhenua Trophy competition alternates between sheep and beef and dairy farming and the 2014 competition is for the top-performing Māori dairy farm.

Following their selection as finalists, they will then be subject to another round of judging, which will include staging a field-day at their individual properties which will be open to members of the public.

Te Rua o Te Moko's field-day is set down for Friday, March 14, so that people can see the farms in action.

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This event will give the owners, judges and the public the first-hand opportunity to visit the farm and support Te Rua o Te Moko in their goal to be recognised as being among the best Maori dairy farmers in Aotearoa, alongside past Taranaki winners including Edward Tamati, Charles Bailey and Parininihi ki Waitotara Incorporation.

Chairman of the Ahuwhenua Trophy Management Committee Kingi Smiler said the finalists' success again highlights how Maori are becoming increasingly active in the management of their lands and significant players within the dairy industry.

"It's worth noting that 10 per cent of the milk produced in the country comes from Māori farms. Māori are now processing and delivering their products directly to customers in the global market. Right around the country I am seeing Māori take new and bold initiatives to improve their farming operations," he says.

Te Rua o te Moko is another quiet example of Taranaki Maori farming success which should be recognised and celebrated.

I look forward to Te Rua o te Moko Ltd's ultimate success in the competition and returning the Ahuwhenua Trophy to Taranaki. Kia kaha koutou.

- Taranaki Daily News

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