It's official. The iconic Maketu Pies has been sold. The new owners? Te Arawa Management Ltd, the commercial subsidiary of Te Arawa Lakes Trust. When news broke that the iconic pie company had been placed into receivership earlier this month, the community was devastated and many feared they would lose their jobs. The company has employed mostly local Maketū people for many years and the sale means the company will stay in local hands. A sense of relief has fallen over the community. Reporter Zoe Hunter speaks to the owner of Maketu Pies for the first time.
A Rotorua iwi trust has bought the iconic Bay of Plenty business Maketu Pies.
Owner Grant Wilson, speaking for the first time about the sale, said he was happy the company's new owners would continue to employ locals but he would miss working with his team.
Te Arawa Management Ltd (TAML), the commercial subsidiary of Te Arawa Lakes Trust, was announced as the new owners of Maketu Pies after the business went into receivership earlier this month.
The trust was one of more than 30 buyers showing interest in the pie business after the company was offered for sale on a going concern basis.
The move will mean the town's biggest employer of mostly its own residents would stay in local hands.
Owned by Grant and Karen Wilson, the business on Little Waihi Rd has operated in Maketū for about 36 years.
Grant Wilson said he and wife Karen were happy the business had sold to the trust.
"I am really pleased for my team," he said. "The most important thing is we [Maketu Pies] are still here and still going strong."
He did not wish to comment on how or why the company was put into receivership.
However, Wilson said he and his wife had worked hard in the past three weeks to ensure the business continued to employ local Maketū people as it had done for many years.
"It is a sad time for me and my wife but it is positive for Maketu Pies," he said.
"It has always been a good challenge and we have loved every moment. It has been a great time."
Wilson said the support he and his wife had received in the past few weeks after it was announced the business was in receivership had been wonderful.
"We have lived here for 40 years ... We are very much a part of this community," he said.
"We will miss working with our team."
However, he wished the new owners all the best. "I hope it all goes well for them."
Te Arawa Lakes Trust chairman Taa Toby Curtis said the purchase was "simply the right fit" for the subsidiary and its role in supporting the future growth of Te Arawa, its assets and whānau.
"Just as importantly, the decision is about ensuring Maketu Pies stays in local hands, rather than heading offshore or away from the Bay of Plenty ... As a result, we can ensure that it will continue to support the local economy," he said.
"We are proud to be playing a role in the next phase of this iconic business' development and contributing to its ongoing legacy."
Commercial manager Cassandra Crowley said it would be looking for opportunities to solidify and develop Maketu Pies.
That included exploring potential partnerships with other businesses and organisations that could benefit the operation, and the local community, she said.
One of the receivers, Tom Rodewald said the business would trade as normal up until the settlement date on November 11 when the new owners took over.
After that, the "wind-down" period will begin on the affairs of RG and KM Wilson Limited - trading as Maketu Pies.
Rodewald said Te Arawa Lakes Trust was one of 34 interested parties including about "half a dozen" who visited the site during the past few weeks.
"That included interest from throughout New Zealand and overseas," he said.
Maketu Health and Social Services whānau ora co-ordinator Corrine Paul said the community was feeling relieved.
"I think staff are still not sure what is happening until the new owners take over," she said. "But it is good news."
Maketū Community Board chairman Shane Beech welcomed the news.
"I am excited. I think that is fantastic for the people of Maketū. Maketu Pies is the biggest employer in Maketū and that would have been a huge loss to our little village," he said.
"It is very important, it means our locals will still have jobs. It is iconic and Maketu Pies put Maketū on the map."
What is Te Arawa Lakes Trust?
Te Arawa Lakes Trust was established in 2007 after the settlement with the Crown to return 14 lakebeds in the Rotorua area to Te Arawa.
It succeeded the Te Arawa Māori Trust Board.
The Te Arawa waka landed in Maketū and it forms the basis of many important stories for iwi. The trust's commercial interests – managed by TAML – include property investments, farming, horticulture and fisheries, all of which help support the trust's environmental work, as well as its wider cultural responsibilities.