Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust is going for gold with its kiwifruit investments.
Successful tenders for G3 Sungold Gold licences mean the trust's investments are turning fully to the popular gold cultivar in their five kiwifruit orchards in the Kerikeri area.
Chairman Pita Tipene says the successful tenders for the highly competitive cultivars were a huge boost.
The trust is now commencing conversion of their Paparata orchard which has 6.26ha of canopy currently planted in Hayward Green, and Te Tara Kowhai orchard, which is currently planted in 6.73ha of ENZA Gold. The other three orchards are already planted in G3 Gold.
Tipene says with all five orchards in full G3 Gold production over the next few years, it is forecast that they will harvest 416,000 trays by 2023. The orchards are leased to Seeka Ltd in a profit share arrangement.
With many local people employed by Seeka, this fits well with the trust's aims to further the employment of the people from its iwi.
"As well as having our people harvesting and packing. We want to develop active managers as well. We want to see our people involved from end to end in all businesses," he said.
The trust was fortunate that an earlier harvest date meant its kiwifruit crop was already exported before the Covid-19 lockdown was implemented.
The Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust is a large and rapidly expanding Māori land trust. The trust forest estate of about 5600ha is centred alongside the small rural towns of Moerewa and Kawakawa. The trust has about 5500 registered owners represented by seven trustees.
The iwi's investment arm originally concentrated on forestry, which remains the core business of the trust's activities.
The trust continues to diversify its interests for both commercial and social reasons. It is active in the preservation and enhancement of its native forest areas and is also involved with training programmes within the Ngāti Hine rohe.
Tipene said the 40-year forestry lease expires next year, and trustees have decided not to lease out the land again, but rather enter into a profit share stumpage forestry right with the Crown.
"We have decided we can get a lot more from growing and harvesting the trees ourselves than leasing the land," he said.
The trustees have adopted a "mosaic approach" to their investments, that seeks to eventually cloak the land in natives. This is a long term strategic vision that in the meantime will see a mixture of exotic and native species.
"There are some people who would like all the land to be replanted as native forest and left, but our shareholders need to see a return so we will be replanting a lesser but still significant part of the forest in a second rotation of pines.
"We don't want all our eggs in one basket. These are intergenerational business investments."
The trust has also been expanding its manuka honey business, with more manuka plantations being planted to keep the bees well fed.
Last year 20 trainees planted 192,000 plants on 208ha, gaining their NZQA Level 2 Forestry qualification in the process in an inaugural Nga Mahuri o Ngāti Hine Manuka Plantation Training Programme.
Eighteen trainees went into fulltime employment with pine forestry, and two trainees remain engaged in other training.
Tipene says the future remains bright for the trust, with exciting developments ahead.
"We're working towards having 430ha planted in manuka for use in our honey business as well as extracting for manuka oil.
"We're aiming to be the manuka capital of the world."
He said adding value through developing products rather than selling honey as a commodity was the best way to realise good returns in the future.
The trust is also investigating a Nutraceutical venture, which aims to develop the uses of manuka and other native plants with a Māori medicinal twist.
The long-term goal is to transition the forest lands from exotic pine to native species, he said.
Wealth creation through these and other interests has seen the Trust assets grow in value from $500,000 in 1980 to around $30 million today.