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.
They are Onuku Māori Lands Trust near Rotorua and The Proprietors of Mawhera Incorporation located near Hokitika on the West Coast.
The finalists were announced at a function at parliament in Wellington last week hosted by the Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta and the Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor.
About 100 people with links to agribusiness, in particular the dairy industry, attended the function in the Grand Hall at Parliament.
Kingi Smiler, the chairman of the Ahuwhenua Trophy management committee, which runs the competition, applauded the choice of farms.
He says they are performing well in challenging times, especially the volatile weather hitting farmers in the past two months; but they are positive and confident about their future.
Farming has never been easy in New Zealand’s environment, Smiler says.
“We are a long way from our markets, yet by innovation and determination we are able to put a wide range of quality products on supermarkets shelves, restaurant menus and processing plants around the world.
“NZ farmers know farming is about managing cycles, be they weather or market, and they take account of this when drawing up their business plans. NZ is lucky to have Māori farmers because it is in their DNA to manage the fragile environment, care for their people and build a sustainable business.”
Field days will be held at the two farms in April to showcase the finalists and allow people see why the farms made the finals. The winner will be announced on Friday May 25 at the Air Force Museum, Wigram, Christchurch.
Mawhera Incorporation Farm is a 348ha property in the Arahura Valley, north of Hokitika. The river here is famous for its prized pounamu (greenstone) and the river and tracks into the bush are a popular tourist attraction.
The long, narrow farm, beside the river, runs from the coast up into the valley. The backdrop is lush native bush sometimes partly obscured by mist. Rainfall is about 3500mm annually (yes, 3.5 metres!).
The milking platform is 257ha, with two support blocks of 35ha and an undeveloped block of 55ha.
The soils are river silt over alluvial gravel. The silt/top soil layer progressively deepens as you move south.
Mawhera Tuatahu, milking 500 cows this season, is targeting 190,000kgMS. All stock are wintered on farm.
Fifty/fifty share miilkers Mark and Debbie Van Beek are in their twelfth season there and employ four staff.
The incorporation says dairy farming is now one of its major investments. It has three dairy farms and commercial and residential properties on the West Coast.
The farm has a long proud history dating back to the 1800s when the Mawhera Incorporation was formed.
Blast from past
The Onuku Maori Lands Trust Boundary Road farm, a competition finalist, is on 72ha near Lake Rotomahana, 30km south of Rotorua.
There the trust milks 220 cows which produce about 90,000kgMS.
The small attractive farm has many trees on its flat to rolling countryside. It has views of Mt Tarawera which erupted in June 1886, wiping out the Rangitihi Pa at Moura on the shores of Lake Tarawera and the world famous Pink and White Terraces.
The surrounding land, including Onuku, was covered with Rotomahana mud and Tarawera ash and gravel. These soils form the base of the Onuku Farms.
Onuku has a goal of buying land on its boundaries, and in 2004 it bought Northern Boundary Road dairy farm from Rotorua District Council.
The farm was run down but was brought up to standard; production now averages 1214 kgMS/ha.
The Rotorua consultancy AgFirst supervises the farm; contract milkers Jim and Trina Braithwaite see to the daily running.