A Hawke's Bay Māori trust has inked a partnership deal to explore opportunities with hemp, much to the delight of the district mayor.

Dannevirke-based iwi Ngāti Kahungunu ki Tāmaki nui-a-Rua Trust is exploring the possibility of building a hemp processing facility in a move described as an exciting opportunity by Tararua District mayor Tracey Collis.

Under the agreement, the trustwould facilitate the sale of high-quality hemp products in New Zealand, with their new global partners, Jinzhou Qiaopai Biotech.

The partnership followed a recent announcement from Food Safety Minister Damien O'Connor of regulatory changes allowing the sale of hemp seed as food in New Zealand.

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"This is a great boost for the Tararua," Collis said.

"The relationship between Ngāti Kahungunu and the Chinese is phenomenal and this new venture provides huge potential and good environmental opportunities for our district in growing hemp."

China-based Jinzhou Qiaopai Biotech Co Ltd specialised in hemp cereal products.

Qiaopai Biotech dominated the market with the advantages being both on the processing cost and also on premium quality hemp products, due to its own designed and manufactured hemp processing equipment, which was patented technology.

Ngāti Kahungunu ki Tāmaki nui-a-Rua Trust chairman Hayden Hape said the iwi had been looking for opportunities which supported economic growth and allowed it to invest in sustainable, environmentally-friendly business ventures – and the hemp industry ticked all those boxes.

"We're incredibly excited about this opportunity and have been proactive in ensuring all due diligence has been carried out to ensure we're well positioned to become a leader in this space," he said.

"We've found a world-class processor to partner with to ensure our operations are informed by best practice.

"We're also looking for opportunities to partner with other iwi throughout New Zealand and local farmers to explore the cropping of additional land for hemp production in the future."

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Ngāti Kahungunu recently hosted Qiaopai Biotech company leaders and directors in the region, with the Tararua District Council hosting a special function for the Chinese delegates in September in Dannevirke.

"Ngāti Kahungunu have been working very hard to make these things happen," Collis said.

Following the visit to New Zealand, Mrs Zhang from Qiaopai Biotech, said the company was looking forward to working with the iwi to grow the New Zealand hemp industry.

"We're impressed with the capability of the iwi, and right away saw a natural fit to partner with people who knew their land well and had connections across the region to really drive growth in hemp production," she said.

This month, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Tāmaki nui-a-Rua Trust, along with Qiaopai Biotech and Massey University, would begin a hemp planting trial.

Massey University would provide expertise to develop a long-term research and development plan to support Ngāti Kahungunu as a producer, processor and marketer of hemp-derived products both in New Zealand and globally. This research would inform the ongoing feasibility of hemp production locally.

Hape acknowledged the Harold brothers – James, William and Patrick – for the initial introduction to the benefits of hemp. The Harold brothers have their own successful hemp operation in the Pongaroa district.