Eugene and Pania King of Kiriroa Station at Matawai, north west of Gisborne are the winners of the prestigious Ahuwhenua Trophy for the top Māori sheep and beef farm in Aotearoa for 2019.

The Minister of Agriculture, Hon Damien O'Connor made the announcement and presented the Trophy to the Kings at a special awards function in Gisborne attended by more than 600 people including the Hon Nanaia Mahuta and other dignitaries, agribusiness leaders and whanau and supporters of the three finalists.

The other finalists were Whangara Farms situated 35 kms north of Gisborne and Te Awahohonu Forest Trust — Gwavas Station at Tikokino 50 kms west of Hastings.

Eugene and Pania King are second couple in the King whanau to win the trophy.

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Eugene's sister Nukuhia and her husband Bart Hadfield won the competition in 2015, and brother Ron and his wife Justine were finalists in 2017.

Kingi Smiler, Ahuwhenua Trophy management committee chairman congratulated Eugene and Pania describing them as a great example of a couple who set challenging goals and then achieved them.

He says the King whanau worked so well together, helping each other to achieve farm ownership and now they have earned a unique place in the legacy of the Ahuwhenua Trophy.

Kingi described Eugene and Pania as outstanding role models for Māori farming saying all New Zealanders should take note of their achievements and that of their whānau.

Kingi says all this year's finalists ran farming operations which are among the best in Aotearoa and for that matter the world.

"The farms were of the highest standard and the task of deciding a winner would not have been easy.

"This year was a great example of the standard of Māori farming in the country and it is great that we have the Ahuwhenua Trophy competition to showcase its success."

For 12 years the Kings farmed in a whānau partnership.

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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 whānau, 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.

Kiriroa is a special place to the Kings. They feel lucky to have taonga like the Motu river, and consider themselves kaitiaki to the 2.2 km of the river flowing through Kiriroa.

Kiriroa Station is situated in the Motu Valley which is almost halfway between Gisborne and Opotiki.

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 whānau 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!