A dividend of 65 cents to shareholders and a $3.1 million net surplus is a very satisfying result for the Atihau Whanganui Incorporation, chairwoman Mavis Mullins says.
The incorporation has more than 9000 shareholders and farms 42,000ha in the Whanganui and Ruapehu districts. Most of the farms are sheep and beef, with dairy interests in coastal Rangitīkei and Ōhakune and an increased emphasis on bees and honey.
More than 600 people went to the AWHI annual general meeting at Whanganui's racecourse on December 7. They watched this year's graduation from the incorporation's farm school at Te Pa Station.
"That was a lovely touch. It's a wonderful way for our people to see and feel how that all works," Mullins said.
She's part of the seven-member board that governs the incorporation. This year shareholders could vote for two places on it, and five people stood for election.
The incumbents, Keria Ponga and Te Tiwha Puketapu, kept their seats.
The dividend was up this year, from 55 cents in the previous two years. Shareholders were grateful for that, but Mullins said it was not the only contribution the incorporation makes to their wellbeing and the wellbeing of the wider community.
"We also provide close to half a million to the Te Atihau Trust, our charitable arm, which is distributed in education grants and to marae and kaumātua."
The incorporation's total revenue this year was $21.6 million. Milk prices were okay, Mullins said, and lamb prices were good. But all agricultural prices are cyclical, which is why it is important to diversify.
"A big part of our strategy has been about diversifying our revenue stream, so that when one is down, something is up."
The increasing number of beehives across the farms provide one new revenue stream. Mullins said the yield was poor last honey season, due to bad weather keeping the bees inside. But the incorporation gets a good return from medicinal grade honey it sells to Watson & Son, and next year it may sell honey directly into the United States.
It's important to form relationships with purchasers, and provide exactly what they want, Mullins said.
"But most importantly, it's telling our story. We have a unique and beautiful story. We have become quite focused on being true to who we are and what we want."