Friday, 06 November 2020 08:19

Leadership challenge for young growers

Written by  Peter Burke
Finalists in the Young Maori Grower, Ahuwhenua Trophy Competition for Horticulture: Maatutaera Akonga, Finnisha Tuhiwai and Brandon Cross. Photo: Finalists in the Young Maori Grower, Ahuwhenua Trophy Competition for Horticulture: Maatutaera Akonga, Finnisha Tuhiwai and Brandon Cross. Photo:

Finalists in the inaugural Ahuwhenua Young Māori Grower Award 2020 have been told that one of the big challenges is increasing the number of young Māori in leadership roles in the horticultural sector.

The three finalists, 24-year-old Brandon Cross, 26-year-old Maatutaera Akonga and 25-year-old Finnisha Tuhiwai were taking part in an intensive three day study tour designed to provide a range of insights, inspiration and experiences across the horticultural sector. 

The Young Māori Farmer Award was inaugurated in 2012 and is designed to recognise up-and-coming young Māori in the farming and horticulture sectors. This year the competition is for horticulture.

One of the judges of this year’s competition was Primary ITO’s Matiu Julian, who says the group were told that while Māori make up 28% of the workforce in the sector, only 4% are in leadership roles. All three finalists in this year’s competition are in leadership roles, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

Julian says the study tour organised by New Zealand Apples and Pears was used as a platform for observing the finalists and selecting a winner, to be announced in November. He says it was designed to give the finalists an insight into the innovation taking place within horticulture, be inspired by Māori leaders and learn from key people who are involved across the horticulture value chain.

“We visited the Ngāti Pahauwera Development Trust Orchard in Napier. Delivered a leadership programme with special guest Kristy Roa, the 2019 Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer Sheep and Beef winner, and visited the Plant and Food Research facility in Hawke’s Bay,” he told Hort News. “We were hosted by the Turners and Growers innovation team and Berries Farm NZ and participated in a presentation from Horticulture New Zealand.” 

Julian says the three finalists also had dinner with Ngahiwi Tomoana, chair of Ngati Kahungunu, his wife Mere and Karl Wixon, a designer, educator, project manager, strategist and ‘kaupapaholic’. 

“All the finalists were treated to stories of inspiration and wisdom they will never forget,” he says.

Julian claims the three day study tour offered the finalists a sense of connection and celebration of Māori success – as the next generation of young Māori looking to evolve and live up to the Ahuwhenua Trophy legacy in horticulture. He says the challenge before them is to think about the types of experiences that want to have, how they want to grow and how they can give back to their whānau and communities.

He says there were many examples of Māori excellence for the finalists to be inspired by. Julian says that being Māori is to be gifted with talent and vision with an innate sense for the health and wellbeing of others. This is manaakitanga.

As a special recognition of being the inaugural finalists in the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Grower competition, Peter MacGregor, who has a long and distinguished career in the Māori agri-sector, presented each of the finalists with a miniature trophy.

The winner of the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Grower competition will be announced in Rotorua on November 20 at the Ahuwhenua Trophy awards dinner. 

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