“The huge turnout to our field day has blown me away.”
That's how Jack Raharihi (24), (iwi Ngati Kahu), feels about being named the Young Maori Dairy Farmer of the Year.
Raharihi, who hails from Westport, was presented with the award by the deputy Maori trustee, Tiaki Hunia, at last week's Ahuwhenua Trophy Awards dinner in Hamilton.
The other two finalists were Harepaora Ngaheu, from Te Teko, Bay of Plenty, and Ash-Leigh Campbell, Canterbury.
Raharihi says he had a troubled past as a teenager and left school at 15. Though he had no experience of the dairy industry he started working on Landcorp's Bassets dairy unit at Cape Foulwind. Now he manages that farm and oversees five staff. Bassets farm is a 450ha property running 1100 cows.
"I started in a day-to-day job, began to enjoy it and then started studying two years later and came on from there," he says. "Winning this award is really big and while I am not much of a public speaker I have had to deal with that in the last twelve months and probably will have to for the next twelve months."
Raharihi says over the years he's developed a passion for training other young workers and helping them carve out viable career paths. Seeing his peers progress to good results and getting higher positions elsewhere is satisfying.
"Education is a big thing these days. To get a manager's role now, qualifications are a necessity. If I can train my guys up to that level and know they have the certificates to back themselves up, I feel positive about having helped them get there. Dairy farming got me in line: I had no time to go out and get into trouble. Now I have a fiancée and two children."
At the Ahuwhenua Awards was Raharihi's boss Rebecca Keoghan, recently named Dairy Industry Woman of the Year. She is in charge of all the dairy farms in the Westport area and is proud of Raharihi's achievement.
"I am over the moon and really stoked for Raharihi. What sets him apart is his innate leadership style and passion for his staff and his own development. It's great for Landcorp and two West Coasters to win major awards, which shows that our region punches above its weight," she says.
The head of the Landcorp dairy farming operations, Mark Julian, who was at the awards, also paid tribute to Raharihi, describing him as a great individual.
"He's always had the right attitude and we are proud to have him as part of our business.... But regardless of that he deserves this prize for himself."