The winner of the 2019 Ahuwhenua Young Maori Farmer Award is 20 year-old Kristy Roa - Ngati Maniapoto, Ngati Apakura.
Roa is a city girl who grew up in Hamilton and whose parents have no direct connections to farming, although they own Longveld which provides stainless steel site installation to the dairy sector in New Zealand and Australia.
Dad Les is from Te Awamutu and his wife Pam from Hamilton.
Roa works as a shepherd on Iwinui Station near Tolaga Bay on the East Coast — a 2100ha property running 5300 ewes, 3700 ewe lambs, 450 cows and 1000 trading bulls.
This is her first job out of Waipaoa but her long term goal is to manage a large scale sheep and beef farm in the Gisborne area and one day own her own farm.
At school, Roa did the normal school subjects and was planning to go overseas when she left and work on a horse ranch in Canada.
But she missed the position, and then by chance heard about the farm cadet course run by Waipaoa Cadet Training Trust on the East Coast through another Te Awamutu connection.
The Roas were talking to Andrew MacPherson at a industry event, catching up on family news.
MacPherson is a trustee for Waipaoa and recommended Roa apply.
Within days the family was heading to the East Coast and just driving there through the farmland to an open day to check out Waipaoa suddenly inspired Roa to make agriculture her career choice.
She gained some experience for a few months on farms in the Waikato and then applied and was accepted for the two year course.
Les said MacPherson and his wife Nic took a keen interest in Roa's progress and then she was able to get employment with a couple who are keen to nurture her aspirations.
While she loves the outdoor life, it's the business aspect of farming that is a major attraction.
She said many city kids see farming as a lifestyle, whereas she sees the business dimension which she describes as 'pretty cool'.
The announcement was made by the Maori Trustee and chief executive of Te Tumu Paeroa, Dr Charlotte Severene at a gala awards function in Gisborne in association with the Ahuwhenua Trophy award for the top Maori Sheep and Beef farm.
About 600 guests including the Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor and Minister of Maori Development Nanaia Mahuta were present at the function.
The other two finalists in the competition were Tumoanakotore-i-Whakairioratia Harrison-Boyd, (Ngati Porou, Whanau a Tuwhakairiora me Te Whanau a Hinekehu), a shepherd at Whareopaia Station near Tolaga Bay on the East Coast; and Taane-nui-a-Rangi Rotoatara Hubbard (Ngati Kahungunu, Ngati Pahauwera, Tainui, Ngati Pakapaka, Ngai Tahu, Ngai Tuhoe), a shepherd on Caberfeidh Station in the Hakataramea Valley near Kurow, northwest of Oamaru.
The Ahuwhenua Young Maori Farmer Award was first held in 2012 and is designed to recognised talented up-and-coming young Māori farmers.
It is also designed to encourage young Maori to make farming a career choice and to showcase to prospective employers, the talent pool that exists within Māori.
Since its inception the event has created interest within and outside te ao Māori and has given finalists and winners a huge sense of pride and achievement.
All have gone on to greater things since winning this event.
Lead judge Peter Little said once again there was a good response for entrants for the awards.
He 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 are making great progress in their careers in agriculture.
Peter Little said Kristy exemplified all that is good about young Māori who are making successful careers in the primary sector.
"Kristy has shown great commitment to her work, excellent leadership and will do a great job as a role model for other young people contemplating a career in the agribusiness sector," said Little.
"Land diversification is opening up new opportunities in the agribusiness sector."
He said the training undertaken by the finalists have helped them establish themselves in good jobs and provided an excellent platform for them to progress to senior positions within the industry.