The achievements of Māori horticulturalists were recognised at this year’s Ahuwhenua Awards in Rotorua, attended by 750 people.

Maatutaera Akonga.jpg

For the first time in its 87 year history, the Ahuwhenua Award was open to Māori leaders in the horticulture industry with the Ahuwhenua Trophy and Young Māori Grower Awards.

Dr Charlotte Severne, the Māori Trustee presented the inaugural Ahuwhenua Young Māori Grower Award to Maatutaera Akonga.

Maatutaera is of Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungungu descent and is senior leading hand at Llewellyn Horticulture based in Hastings.

The two other finalists in the competition were 24 year-old Brandon Cross of Tauranga, a trainee orchard manager for the large kiwifruit orchard management and post-harvest company Seeka, and 25 year-old Finnisha Tuhiwai, a packhouse manager for Maungatapere Berries located west of Whangarei in a rural town ship of Maungatapere.

Dr Severne said the finalists articulated passion for horticulture and had demonstrated distinction in an industry built on innovation and excellence.

“These rangatahi are an inspiration and in the face of a global pandemic they continue to forge a pathway for future Māori leaders in horticulture across Aotearoa.”

During her speech, Dr Severne also acknowledged the Māori Soldiers Trust, who contributed the prize money for the Young Māori Grower award.

The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy presented the other award of the evening, the Ahuwhenua Trophy for Excellence in Māori Horticulture, which went to Te Kaha 15 B Hineroa Orchard.

Ahuwhenua-Award winner-2020.jpgHineroa Orchard is a Māori freehold land block located in the Eastern Bay of Plenty township of Te Kaha.

Norm Carter, the Chairman of Hineroa Orchard, received the Trophy from the Governor General, while Ahuwhenua Trustees the Hon Willie Jackson, Hon Damien O’Connor and Dave Samuels presented the replica trophy, as well as winner’s medal, historic certificate and cash prize to the Trust.

Te Kaha 15B, Hineora Orchard comprises of 11.5 hectares, on which the Trust runs a kiwifruit joint venture operation, a commercial pack-house facility housing the local kiwifruit spray company (in which the Trust holds shares), and a four bedroom home for accommodation at the block. Prior to the Trust’s creation in 1970, the land was largely occupied by different whānau who farmed the block maintaining a subsistence living growing a range of fruit and vegetables for the local community.

The two other finalists were Otama Marere in Paengaroa near the Bay of Plenty town of Te Puke, who grow a mixture of Green, SunGold and organic kiwifruit as well as avocados, and Ngāi Tukairangi Trust which is very large kiwifruit operation with one of its orchards based at Matapihi, just a few kilometres from the centre of Tauranga city.

Kingi Smiler, the Chairman of the Ahuwhenua Trophy Management Committee says Te Kaha 15 B Hineora Orchard was a worthy winner of the trophy. He said that Māori are significant players in the horticulture sector and we must recognise their contribution to the New Zealand economy.

A brief History of Ahuwhenua

The Ahuwhenua Trophy is the most prestigious award for excellence in Māori farming and horticulture and was inaugurated 87 years ago by the visionary Māori leader, Sir Apirana Ngata and the Governor General at the time, Lord Bledisloe. The objective was, and still is, to encourage Māori farmers to improve their land and their overall farming position with an emphasis on sustainability.

On a three year rotational basis, the Trophy is competed for by Māori in the sheep and beef, horticulture and dairy sectors. In 2021, the award will be for dairy.

More details Ahuwhenua Trophy 

Photo credits: Alphapix