Kiwifruit Strap

Māori have stamped their mark on the kiwifruit industry with plans to increase their stakehold in the future by utilising more land.

Māori Kiwifruit Growers Inc chairman Tiaki Hunia said the group formed in 2016 to create a collective voice.

''We have always maintained the view that what is good for Māori is great for the industry.''

Its members, which include collective owners and iwi, account for more than 180 orchards in New Zealand.

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''Although they are predominantly in the Bay of Plenty, we have Māori orchards in Northland, Waikato, Gisborne, East Coast and Nelson, so there is a definite mix around the country.

''A real key priority to us has always been about the best interest of our Māori growers and what value they can provide for the whole industry not just Maori for Māori.''

Employment opportunities also existed across the sector.

''We have always been focused on how can we move, support and progress our people to go from the orchard up and across the industry into managerial roles and into industry groups like Zespri. That is the bigger picture and there is a labour challenge for the industry and the whole country.''

He hoped Māori would become influential and make a substantial contribution by utilising Māori culture and thinking.

In his view, Māori landowners needed to be more active as the Māori economy continues to go from strength to strength.

''I've always thought the most important part of the growing Māori economy is the confidence of the landowners to do things differently to become more active. In the past, they have been quite passive, as in leasing out.''

A great example in action was happening at Te Kaha, he said.

''We have seen it at Te Kaha. You know it's an amazing story around the growth of the gold kiwifruit in particular on what was historically maize land. They have taken that on through partnerships and joint ventures as well as their own individual whanau developments. I see lots of opportunities around the country as we have land where the environment and the climate are conducive to kiwifruit.

A Maori Kiwifruit Growers Inc meeting. Photo / File
A Maori Kiwifruit Growers Inc meeting. Photo / File

''I think going forward you will see more of these kinds of new greenfield developments popping up on Māori land.''

Māori accounted for about 10 per cent of Zespri's kiwifruit and are eying up 20 per cent of volumes in the future.

''Even though we jumped from 8 to 10 per cent in the last two years people might say that isn't much. But we have gone from 10 million trays in 2016 to 15 million trays in 2018, so that is a 50 per cent increase.''

In June last year three North Island iwi-based companies Te Arawa Group Holdings (Rotorua); Rotoma No 1 Incorporation (Rotorua), and Ngāti Awa Group Holdings (Whakatāne) bought Matai Pacific's vast kiwifruit portfolio.

The large-scale property deal included three separate mid to large-sized productive blocks at Te Puke: Te Matai Orchard, Pacific Gold Orchard and Coachman Orchard.

Combined, the three blocks cover nearly 100 canopy hectares and were expected to produce up to 1.3 million trays of kiwifruit.

Now named Matai Pacific Iwi Collective, Ngāti Awa Group Holdings chairman Paul Quinn said at the time kiwifruit would be a new direction for Ngāti Awa and having three partners on board was a great way to share knowledge and expertise.

''Māori growers are now making a real impact in the kiwifruit market ... we see this as an intergenerational investment,'' he said.

''The decisions we make now are for future generations. This has the potential to be a huge legacy.''

According to the Bay of Plenty Regional Council 38 per cent of the region's land is owned by Māori, with 1800 Māori Land Trusts managing these assets.