During April field days were held at each of the three finalists in this year's Ahuwhenua Trophy for excellence in sheep and beef farming.
A crowd of about 250 people attended the field day of Whangara Farms, a finalist in this year's Ahuwhenua Trophy for excellence in sheep and beef farming.
Whangara Farms, 35 km north of Gisborne is 8300 hectares (6900 effective) and runs 45,000 sheep, about 6000 cattle and employs 17 full time staff. Whangara Farms is a Partnership of three Maori Incorporations — Whangara B5, Pakarae A and Tapuwae Whitiwhiti of Ngati Konohi all under one management system.
The prestigious award was inaugurated 86 years ago by esteemed Maori leader, Sir Apirana Ngata, and the Governor General at the time, Lord Bledisloe.
Speaking at the Whangara field day, Kingi Smiler, the Ahuwhenua Trophy management committee chairman says it was another great event.
The Whangara partnership allows the three partners to join commercially, but also retain their own identity.
Ownership of the land was not transferred, rather it was placed at the use of the partnership.
This results in each incorporation retaining their lands, their own share register and effectively their own autonomy.
Whangara Farms vision is to be "an outstanding business delivering on-going sustainable returns".
Management is strongly based on using science, technology and data collection to improve decision making.
They have also developed comprehensive Land Environment Plans for all five business units, which play an important part in planning.
Following initial trials, Whangara Farms is looking to develop nurseries on each of the five business units. They recently resolved to retire 400ha of coastal property and let this revert following the recommendation in the Land Environment Plan.
The three partners predominantly meet social responsibilities. They collectively support Whangara marae, four other marae in the rohe, Whangara Church, and the local rescue helicopter service.
In addition to this Whangara Farms supports community activities such as Dog Trials (with the 2018 National Dog Trials being held at Whitiwhiti), projects with Whangara School and horse sports.
Whangara Farms has also been a significant contributor to research and development in the region and has been a Beef + Lamb demonstration farm, Beef + Lamb innovation farm, Beef + Lamb beef progeny test site, McDonald's sustainable beef project (being awarded a McDonald's flagship farm status in 2018, the first such farm outside of Europe and the 28th internationally to attain that status), Farm IQ focus farm, AgResearch pasture plot trials and AgResearch forage plot trials.
The field day at historic Gwavas Station at Tikokino in Central Hawke's Bay attracted a good crowd of people keen to see why this property is a finalists this year.
The farm is owned by the Te Awahohonu Forest Trust, which has Tarawera Station on the Napier Taupo Road, which Gwavas complements.
Gwavas Station is a 1178 hectare (989 effective) property on which is wintered 12,000 stock units — split 50/50 between cattle and sheep. Three full time staff run property with input from two advisors.
Kingi says the field day at Gwavas Station was an excellent event which highlighted the thought and work that had gone into developing the property.
"It was a good example of the strategic planning that had been undertaken by its owners the Te Awahohonu Forest Trust," he says.
"They bought Gwavas as a finishing block to complement their other property, Tarawera which is largely a breeding operation.
"This shows that Maori are creating new farming enterprises that will help build resilience and mitigate risk to deal with volatile climatic and market conditions".
Te Awahohonu Forest Trust was formed in 1971. The Trust is constituted by the Māori Land Court as an Ahu Whenua Trust.
The Trust administers Tarawera C9 comprising 20,960ha in total, 8428ha in Awahohonu forest, 2623ha in Tarawera Station, and 9909ha Ahimanawa (Native). In addition to Tarawera C9, the Trust owns 1000ha at Gwavas Station, and a further 160ha farming property neighbouring Tarawera Station.
Gwavas Station was purchased by the Trust at auction in February 2011 and has undergone a significant development programme since purchase.
It has a farming history dating back to the mid-1800s, the original station once covering 33,000 acres of land in the area.
Gwavas Station sits in a region that can experience summer dry conditions and has a complex range of mainly free draining soils. These comprise Takapau silts and Tukituki gravelly sands on the flatter areas, Poporangi and Mangatahi soils on some intermediate terraces and rolling hills, and Gwavas sandy loams on the remaining easy and steeper hills.
It is farmed as an intensive dry land finishing property that compliments the Tarawera Station breeding operation.
Between 14,000 and 16,000 lambs and approximately 800 cattle are finished annually depending on the season.
The Trust has a strong relationship with their shareholders, business partners and staff and developing skilled people across the business is a key objective of the Trust.
The objective for the Trust is to finish all stock bred off Tarawera Station and maximise returns through optimising slaughter weights and specifications alongside a profile of a broader out of season stock supply.
The stock strategy currently has an element of breeding involved while the property continues to transition through development (to improve soil fertility and pastures).
Optimising the potential of the farm economically while remaining kaitiaki of all its resources and true to its values are key objectives of the Trust. Each generation of Trustees is expected to manage and pass on the assets of the Trust in better condition than when they were received.
The final farm field day in this years Ahuwhenua Trophy has again attracted a significant turnout. Kiriroa Station at Motu, 70 km north west of Gisborne is owned and operated by husband and wife team, Eugene and Pania King.
About 300 people came along to hear the Kings talk about their determination and hard work with whanau that enabled them to buy the farm.
There was also a tour where visitors had the opportunity to see stock and also some of the improvements the couple have made to the farm since they bought it in 2013.
Kiriroa Station is situated almost half way between Gisborne and Opotiki. The property is 483ha, (357 effective), 60ha flat, 200ha medium hill, with the balance being steep hill.
The Kings trade cattle and finish all stock on farm and are currently wintering 3800 stock units; a mix of 40 per cent cattle and 60 per cent sheep.
The King family has a long association with the Ahuwhenua Trophy, with Bart and Nukuhia Hadfield winning the trophy in 2015 and Ronald and Justine King being finalists in 2017.
"Eugene and Pania King are genuine role models for Maori farming, demonstrating how goal setting and hard work pays dividends," says Kingi.
"A long time ago their whanau set a goal of farm ownership, they never deviated from this path and now have all achieved it in style. What is more, having got their farm, they have set a course of continuing improvement which was evident to all those who attended the field day.
"The Kings and the other Ahuwhenua Trophy finalists have taken Maori farming to a new level of excellence and are rightly acknowledged by being in the final of this prestigious competition."
For 12 years the Kings farmed in a whanau partnership. They all had one goal in common, to one day all own their own farms.
The whanau knew that with hard work, commitment, and determination their goal would be reached. Eugene and Pania are grateful to have had the opportunity to farm with whanau, and are proud of what has been achieved.
In 2013 Eugene and Pania decided they had built enough equity to finally go out on their own.
After a year long search for a farm, they found Kiriroa. In March 2014 they moved to Motu to start a new chapter in their lives.
The Motu Valley is home to weka — and because of their declining numbers, in 2015 Eugene and Pania retired 2ha of land for them.
With the help of the Gisborne District Council, Motu School, as well as support from the community, native plants were planted and a weka wetland habitat was established.
With ongoing monitoring and maintaining the habitat, the weka are thriving.
There are three QEII covenants on Kiriroa and a further two to be done within the next three years.
The King whanau is very supportive of whanau, community, marae and school; living and breathing their whakatauaki: Poipoia te whenua, te wai, te hunga tangata ano hoki e ora tonu ia tatou.
Look after the land, water, and the people, and all will look after you.