Rangitīkei iwi Ngā Wairiki-Ngāti Apa has bought a further one third share of the large Te Hou Farms near Bulls - for $8.64 million.
The purchase was made final on December 1, and announced at the tribe's annual general meeting on December 6. The buyer is iwi-owned Ngā Wairiki – Ngāti Apa Developments Limited.
The highly productive 1224ha farm is on coastal sand country is near Bulls. The purchase brings the iwi's share to two-thirds.
The land was formerly part of Flock House, an AgResearch farm and training school.
In May 2014 it was bought in a three-way partnership between Hew and Roger Dalrymple of neighbouring Waitatapia Station, Ngā Wairiki-Ngāti Apa and the Whanganui iwi-owned Ātihau Whanganui Incorporation.
It was run by a board of six, with two representatives from each party and Ngā Wairiki-Ngāti Apa chairman Pahia Turia as its chairman.
The Dalrymples have been heavily involved in its development, but they now have "plenty of other things to do" and decided to sell their share.
They have done most of the development work and Hew Dalrymple said the iwi were "fantastic people to work with".
The farm is expected to contribute income and growth to them, and Turia paid tribute to the Dalrymples' expertise in moving it to high productivity.
"Our dairy farm is amongst the top 25 per cent of dairy farms in the country, and we have dry stock, cropping, forestry and now blueberries on various parts of this property," he said.
Since 2014 the farm has been transformed, three new bores have been sunk and about half of its area is now irrigated. Its 300 small paddocks have become 46 big ones and there are a total of nine houses.
An original office block is being converted into a new iwi boardroom, offices and main entrance. There's a new 600-cow feed pad and updated effluent system.
It's like a small country, on either side of Parewanui Rd.
"I can drive 75km in a day and I haven't left the farm," operations manager Jarred Clode said.
He was brought up in the area and spent six years on big Canterbury dairy farms. Aged just 36, he said he was lucky Ngāti Apa was giving him the opportunity to "steer this ship".
The dairy farm has 1100 Friesian cows, in a two herd system. Each produces 520kg of milk solids a year, which is supplied to Open Country Dairy. The cows eat 75 per cent ryegrass and clover pasture, with the rest PKE, grain from the property and maize silage from the property.
The 800ha dry stock side of the farm grazes the dairy cows over winter and breeds 250 replacement milkers each year, making the farm very self-contained.
About half of it is irrigated, and it also grazes beef cattle.
Cropping on it includes maize for grain and silage, barley for malting, and potatoes. It grows 145ha of peas a year, for McCain Foods Ltd. Once harvested the peas have to get to a chiller in Feilding within 40 minutes. After that they are processed in Hawke's Bay.
Bales of straw from the peas and barley become another saleable product, with some kept for overwintering the cattle.
Diversification is a policy, and 2ha of blueberries have been planted in tunnel houses where a sandhill was flattened. They are growing in a medium rather than in the soil, "fertigated" with pure water and nutrients.
They got their first, "whānau" pick this year, and picking could provide a lot of jobs over two to three months a year as the plants mature. The berries will be marketed through Miro, a collaboration of Māori business and horticultural leadership.
The farms also have beehives, and 90ha of forestry. There are an average of six to eight staff working each day, and more new ventures to come.
"It's what it can grow into. We don't know yet. There's so much opportunity," Clode said.
Together all those ventures should provide a steady income stream, Te Rūnanga o Ngā Wairiki-Ngāti Apa trustee Jason Boyle said.
"We have wanted to have a greater share of this place. It's about growing our business and growing our profitability ensures our longevity. We are trying to build something substantial for the next generation."
He grew up in the Bulls area, then had a 12-year career with the New Zealand Defence Force, seven of them as an officer. Most recently he has worked in the dairy industry for 11 years.
The other shareholder, the Atihau Whanganui Incorporation, is great to work with, he said.
"They have a lot of farming experience themselves, and big farms. [Chairwoman] Mavis Mullins is commercially astute, and a really good person."
The iwi mindset is all about sustainability, he said.
"We can produce the best milk in the country on this farm, but if it's not produced sustainably it devalues the end product, which could be the latte that's sipped on the Champs-Elysees."