Young Raupunga shepherd Jordan Biddle is being seen as a new role model for his people of Northern Hawke's Bay iwi Ngati Pahauwera after being named winner of the Ahuwhenua Young Maori Farmer Award at a black-tie dinner in Whangarei on Friday night.
The 21-year-old father-of-two, who grew-up in Raupunga, is a shepherd at the Ngati Pahauwera-owned Pihanui Station, in remote country off Cricklewood Rd and on the banks of the Waiau River north of the State Highway 2 township. He has just been appointed head shepherd of the iwi's Rawhiti Farm off Putere Rd.
Iwi chairman Toro Waaka, who was at the awards ceremony and at Ngati Pahauwera Development Trust's Takutai Moana Consultation Iwi hui at Mohaka's Waipapa-a-Iwi marae when the iwi recognised the triumph with a welcome-home yesterday, said it was a remarkable achievement for a young man who having left school at the age of 15 could have followed a completely different path had it not been for the way his family had instilled a work ethic and kept him on track.
What he yielded in academic achievement, although now studying for Primary ITO qualifications, he made-up with his own skills, Mr Waaka said, adding: "I think where he won the award was in his innovative approach to problems they presented."
Young people in the area were among those bereft by the loss of jobs in the area compared with the days when they followed older family into work in the forestry, or with Minstry of Works or railways gangs.
"I hope this award motivates other young people in the area to look at farm cadetships and following that pathway right through the industry to managing farms,"Mr Waaka said.
The win extended Northern Hawke's Bay success in the Ahuwhenua Trophy Maori Excellence in Farming awards, highlighted by a 2015 Wairoa District double which the Young Farmer honour went to Hannah Wallace,and the Ahuwhenua Trophy for Maori Excellence in Sheep and Beef Farming went to Mangaroa Station farmers Bart and Nukuhia Hadfield.
Several generations of Ngati Pahauwera have worked on Pihanui which was farmed by the Bayly family for many years until it was bought by Ngati Pahauwera in late 2014 as the iwi's Development Trust stepped-up its farm business in the wake of a Treaty of Waitangi settlement which was completed two years earlier.
Mr Biddle's win, announced at the trophy awards dinner attended by Prime Minister Bill English and about 700 others in Whangarei on Friday night, was followed by a welcome home during a hui at Mohaka's Waipapa-a-Iwi Marae yesterday, attended by whanau and other Ngati Pahauwera and locals.
Hindered by fog at Auckland Airport, he and father Deno got home on Saturday too late to front for local senior rugby side YMP, for which Jordan has played since he was 15.
Yesterday he had no sooner finished the obligation at the marae than he was off to see his dogs and do an afternoon's hunting.
Award lead judge Peter Little said it is never an easy task to select a winner from three finalists given the pool of young Māori who in a short space of time have been making "great progress" in their careers in agriculture.
"Jordan Biddle exemplified all that is good about young Māori who are making successful careers in the primary sector. He says Jordan has shown great commitment to his work, excellent leadership and will do a great job as a role model for other young Māori contemplating a career in the agribusiness sector."
The young farmer had already shown his strengths in a senior way by taking over as a manager for eight months until a new manager was appointed.
He told veteran agricultural writer Peter Burke that when he was at school he had little inkling that he would make farming his career choice.
But he started working part-time on farms when he was just 15, doing odd jobs such as fencing. The breakthrough came two years later when he was offered a permanent role at Waitaha Station, and two years later he moved to his present role at Pihanui.
As part of his current role he is helping junior shepherd Tana Culshaw-Kaisa on the farm and who at the age of 17 also entered the Ahuwhenua competition.
Mr Biddle said he enjoys that role, and is working to get other young people in the area interested in farming.
Friday's premier award, the Ahuwhenua Trohpy for Maori Excellence in Sheep and Beef Farming, was won by Far North enyterprise Omapere Rangihamama Trust farm near Kaikohe.