A new generation of young urbanised Maori are being enticed back to farming and taught valuable skills at Taratahi Agricultural Centre thanks to a new scholarship.
Two scholarships each worth $18,750 have been offered to young urban Maori by Motutapu Farms Ltd chairman Rick Braddock.
The scholarship offers by the Pakeha businessman stem from his enthusiasm to see Maori involved in farming on Motutapu Island, outside Auckland.
Mr Braddock believes the opportunity for Maori farmers to work on Motutapu should be "their entitlement".
Nigel Udy, education delivery manager at Taratahi Agricultural Centre said the scholarship was a significant step.
"We are giving scholarship opportunities to students who would not normally be able to do this," he said.
"We are trying to eliminate the barriers, which are mostly financial barriers, are in talks to highlight further training opportunities and we are identifying other ways to engage with young men and women, mostly Maori, to give them a head start in farming."
Mr Braddock is hoping the scholarships will prove attractive to young urban Maori who want to return to farming despite many Maori families having lost their ties to the land.
He praised the facilities, the guidance and the opportunity to learn varying dairy, cattle and sheep farming skills at the centre under the programme.
Auckland students Estelle Harimape, 21, and Josh Wilson, 20, are the first scholarship recipients. They began their training in July. Both had never worked on a farm previously, but have strong ancestral connections to the land.
The students said that starting the programme at the beginning of the calving season at Taratahi was a great experience.
Ms Harimape said she has "really enjoyed" her training and learned new skills such as butchery. She has her sights set on a career in agricultural management and she is looking forward to working at Mototapu during the holidays.
Mr Wilson believes the programme has provided him with "lots of opportunities" for a future career in agriculture.
He said he has gained useful understanding of stock management and and he has thoroughly enjoyed learning to navigate agricultural vehicles.
Although Motutapu Island is public land, there is a possibility that Maori could soon be granted a future lease to farm it as part of Auckland's Tamaki Collective settlement.
Over the last 20 years, Mr Braddock has worked extensively with the Department of Conservation to restore Motutapu Island to its former glory. The island is now a beacon of natural wildlife and it is also completely pest-free.
Mr Braddock is keen to develop the scholarships over the coming years in collaboration with Ngai-Tai-Ki-Tamaki and Taratahi Agricultural Centre.By Trevor Quinn of the Wairarapa Times-Age