The winner of the inaugural Ahuwhenua Trophy Excellence in Māori Horticulture Award 2020 is Te Kaha 15B Hineora Orchard. Hineora Orchard is a Māori freehold land block located in the Eastern Bay of Plenty township of Te Kaha, 65km east of Ōpōtiki.
The announcement was made on Friday 20th November 2020 by Her Excellency, the Rt Hon. Dame Patsy Reddy at a special awards function in Rotorua attended by 750 people including the Minister for Māori Development and Minister of Agriculture, other politicians and dignitaries, agribusiness leaders and whānau.
The two other finalists were Otama Marere in Paengaroa near the Bay of Plenty town of Te Puke, who grow a mixture of Green, SunGold and organic kiwifruit as well as avocados, and Ngāi Tukairangi Trust which is very large kiwifruit operation with one of its orchards based at Matapihi, just a few kilometres from the centre of Tauranga city.
The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy presented the Ahuwhenua Trophy to Norm Carter, the Chairman of Hineroa Orchard, while Ahuwhenua Trustees the Hon Willie Jackson, Hon Damien O’Connor and Dave Samuels presented the replica trophy, as well as winners medal, historic certificate and cash prize to the Trust.
Te Kaha 15B, Hineora Orchard comprises of 11.5 hectares, on which the Trust runs a kiwifruit joint venture operation, a commercial pack-house facility housing the local kiwifruit spray company (in which the Trust holds shares), and a four bedroom home for accommodation at the block. Prior to the Trust’s creation in 1970, the land was largely occupied by different whānau who farmed the block maintaining a subsistence living growing a range of fruit and vegetables for the local community.
Kingi Smiler, the Chairman of the Ahuwhenua Trophy Management Committee says Te Kaha 15 B Hineora Orchard was a worthy winner of the trophy. He says the Trustees have shown great vision, persistence and resilience to establish their operation and to achieve some impressive results. He says their operation, like the other finalists, is something that must make their whānau feel proud of their efforts.
Kingi says this is the first time in the 87 year history of the competition that the trophy has been open to Māori horticulturalists and says this is not before time. He says Māori are significant players in the horticultural sector and we must recognise their contribution to the New Zealand economy.
Kingi also praised the other finalists, Otama Marere and Ngāi Tukairangi Trust saying the standards of their operations are among the best in the New Zealand horticultural sector.
“All three finalists have helped set a benchmark for future entrants in this competition which will be hard to eclipse. What makes it more impressive is the fact that they done this in one of the most difficult times in the history of the country when uncertainty is a way of life. I am proud, Māori should be proud and the whole country should acknowledge their efforts,” he says.
More details about Te Kaha 15B, Hineora Orchard
The whenua falls within the tribal rohe of Te Whānau-a-Apanui, and more specifically, is associated with Te Whānau a Te Ehutu hapū. Later a citrus orchard was established, however, given the small land area, this also failed to provide a sustainable economic return for its owners. By 1998 the Trustees recognised that they were asset rich but lacked sufficient capital to develop their land. Fortunately, at the same time, a group of Eastern Bay of Plenty orchardists were seeking opportunities for development of the (then) new Gold variety of kiwifruit and were prepared to enter into 50/50 joint ventures with Trusts, effectively providing capital investment to the value of the land contributed for development by landowners.
The Hineora Orchard operation began in 1999 and was the last of six blocks to join the innovative joint venture development with decisions made, and profits shared, on a 50/50 basis with investors for a period of 20 years. Originally intended to end in 2021, the joint venture has managed the current orchard operation through the highs of the returns from the original Gold variety, to the lows of the PSA vine disease which devastated large parts of the kiwifruit industry. The land, and its orchard operation, is now due to be returned to 100% ownership by the trust in 2023. As a result of this 20 year journey, the Trustees, who have each served over 15 years on the Trust, now jointly manage an 8.13 hectare orchard operation of G3 SunGold kiwifruit, producing just over 133,000 trays annually. They work closely with their contracted Orchard Manager, and local cool-storage company OPAC.
Along with the other five joint venture blocks, they have formed a subsidiary spray company, Te Kaha Gold Sprayers who employ locals to work on OPAC orchards in the area. Significant investment from the six blocks has enabled the company to extend its operations across the Te Kaha and Omaio areas, and they now employ over 20 staff, many of whom are whānau.
The Trust was also influential in the establishment of Te Whānau-a-Apanui Fruitgrowers Incorporated – a charitable community education outreach group, responsible for upskilling 60 local workers to level 4 qualifications in Horticulture as well as supporting locals to build to Diploma level courses. Whilst the Trust does not have any historic sites on its land, it continues to have a strong commitment to sustainability and offers annual kaumatua grants to shareholders as well as tangi, health, education, sporting, culture and travel grants. Te Kaha 15B is another example of Māori having the vision, and courage, to embrace a new model of working, taking hold of their destiny and developing their land to its potential for future generations.
Hineora Orchard Te Kaha 15B Key Contact: Norman Carter, 027 280 9452, firstname.lastname@example.org
A brief History of Ahuwhenua
The Ahuwhenua Trophy is the most prestigious award for excellence in Māori farming and horticulture and was inaugurated 87 years ago by the visionary Māori leader, Sir Apirana Ngata and the Governor General at the time, Lord Bledisloe. The objective was, and still is, to encourage Māori farmers to improve their land and their overall farming position with an emphasis on sustainability. On a three year rotational basis, the Trophy is competed for by Māori in the sheep and beef, horticulture and dairy sectors. In 2021 the competition will be for dairy.
Media can call Peter Burke 021 2242184 email@example.com. Photographs are free for use in relation to the competition. Visit www.bit.ly/ahuwhenuatrophy or contact John Cowpland, Alphapix: 027 253 3464 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional information about the competition is on the Ahuwhenua website