Eugene and Pania King from Kiriroa Station at Matawai, north-west of Gisborne, are this year’s winners of the Ahuwhenua Trophy for the top Māori sheep and beef farm.
About 800 people are expected at the awards dinner in Hamilton on May 20. Guests will include the Minister for Maori Development Te Ururoa Flavell, the Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy, the Maori King Tuheitia, politicians and leading agribusiness people, many from the dairy sector.
The competition was set up 83 years ago by the Maori leader and politician Sir Apirana Ngata and Governor-General Lord Bledisloe.
For the first time, two of the three finalists – Ngai Tahu Farming Ltd and the Rakaia Incorporation– are from the South Island. The third finalist – Tewi Trust – is from South Waikato.
Ngai Tahu Farming Ltd's farms are located near Oxford, Canterbury. Their farms Te Ahu Patiki and Maukatere are at Te Whenua Hou, originally a New Zealand Forest Service radiata pine plantation commonly known as Eyrewell Forest. Both farms are irrigated from the Waimakariri River.
Tewi Trust is located near Okoroire, near Tirau, South Waikato. The area is famous for hot springs and a beautiful hotel. The farm has a 138ha effective milking platform running 430 Friesians.
Rakaia Incorporation's Tahu a Tao farm has a long and proud history dating from 1886. The present 216ha farm near Ashburton runs about 830 Kiwi cross cows. Tahu a Tao is the Maori name for Kyle, where the farm is located.
The winner will receive prizes valued at $40,000, and they and the other finalists will share prizes valued at $20,000.
The chairman of the Ahuwhenua Trophy management committee, King Smiler, says all three farms are worthy finalists making a big, brave call to showcase their operations in challenging times. In such times it is important that leaders emerge and show the way for others, he says.
"This is not a time to retreat until better times return. Such downturns in a cycle provide an opportunity for all farming businesses to take stock of their operations and to honestly analyse what they are doing well and what they could do better. Such work will pay great dividends when times improve.
"We are intergenerational farmers with time on our side and a history of managing adversity and coming back stronger and better. Everything we do today must be done for a positive outcome for future generations."
Smiler says overall Maori agribusiness is in very good shape. The Ahuwhenua Trophy has been a major factor in lifting the profile and perception of Maori agribusiness.