Thursday, 04 April 2024 08:55

Three finalists named for Young Māori Award

Written by  Peter Burke
Ben Purua Ben Purua

Three finalists have been named for the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Award for dairy.

They are 29 year-old Ben Purua, farm manager at Waimakariri Lands Ltd, near Tirau in the Waikato, Hannah Speakman, 21, employed as the second-in-charge (2IC) for Woodlands Farming on Pine Hill Dairy farm in Enfield, near Oamaru and Shayden Gardiner, 21, is the assistant farm manager for Ma Taua Dairies, Rylib Group, near Ashburton in mid-Canterbury.

The Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer Award was inaugurated in 2012 and is designed to recognise up and coming young Māori in the pastoral and horticulture sectors.

Since its inception the competition has proved to be very popular and has attracted high quality entrants, many of whom have gone on to take leadership roles in the agri sector. The three finalists this year were selected from several entrants from around the country.

Purua oversees the management of the 540 cow, system five dairy farm located near Tirau in the South Waikato for Chap and Ashleigh Zwiers and Jack and Tiz Sheares. He faced adversity in his upbringing in Pukekohe, including exposure to gang life, substance abuse, and domestic violence. This led him on a journey in and out of youth prison and eventually to Waikeria Prison. It was during his time he had an opportunity to work on the prison farms which ignited a newfound passion for farming. This transformative experience provided Purua with a path to positively redirect his life.

Apart from his work and community commitments, Purua and his wife Nikki have introduced their own clothing line called Kāmu tō Pāmu (meaning ‘calm your farm’), aiming to advocate for well-being and positivity.

Hannah Speakman spent her childhood in Elsthorpe, Hawke’s Bay on Edenham – a sheep and beef farm, which was managed by her dad, John.

It was there where her passion for whenua and livestock began and after the Covid pandemic she decided to pursue a career in farming.

Hannah began working for the Rowlands family as farm assistant on their 560-cow farm near Oamaru in 2022. The property consists of 170ha of flat-rolling country, which is fully irrigated, with great infrastructure, equipment, farm management systems, practices and protocols. She says she loves the farm and farm life which has enabled her to learn and grow.

Speakman says her goal is upskill herself and become a farm manager. In her spare time, she likes to play netball and surf.

Hannah Speakman FBTW

Hannah Speakman

The farm that Gardiner works on as the assistant farm manager near Ashburton is a 354ha (effective) owned by the Rylib Group in mid-Canterbury. At peak they milk 1120 cows through a newly built 80 bale rotary shed on System 5. He says he feels very fortunate to be in his position to guide a team of three workers and provide support to the farm manager, Murray Bowden.

Gardiner and his partner Ellie have three young children and he says the unwavering support of his family have motivated him to be his best. And says he wouldn’t be where he is today without them.

Gardiner was born in Whanganui and raised in a rural area. He says from an early age he decided that school wasn’t for him, and he left when he was 14.

But he says his heart was set on a farming career, which he’s now achieved, and over the last four years he has worked his way up to his current position as an assistant manager. He says his goal is to become a farm owner.

Shayden Gardiner FBTW

Shayden Gardiner. Photo Credit: John Cowpland - Alphapix

The three finalists will be attending the field days of the finalists of the main Ahuwhenua Trophy competition and the winner of both competitions will be announced in Hamilton at a gala dinner in mid-May.

Lead Judge of the competition, Matiu Julian, says every year this award attracts young farmers and growers who are invested in their futures and want to advance their careers, and as judges it is a privilege to be involved.

He says providing an opportunity for young Māori farmers to grow and connect as Māori is an investment in the future growth of the sector. What attracts many young Māori to the award is the realisation they are part of a legacy of Māori endeavour, resilience and tenacity.

“The finalists are given unique access to a broad range of experienced industry practitioners and service providers who all understand the importance of growing our young talent.

“The personal experience as an Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer finalist is always profound and emotionally moving,” he says.

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