Jessica Smith, Business Relationship Team Manager, has a clear understanding of her role with Te Tumu Paeroa and its purpose.
"I'm passionate about people and I’m passionate about the land. So for me, it’s about building whānau enterprises on whānau land.”
The business relationship team, led by Jessica, works with a number of Māori trusts to understand their aspirations and help guide them towards developing the land in line with those aspirations. This work can be challenging, but it’s vital in helping them reach their goals.
“All challenges are good because they’re all learnings. The thing that helps us get through those challenging situations is the relationships we have; the relationships we’ve gained over the years as we’ve been working in a variety of areas,” says Jessica.
Through these strong relationships, we balance the economic needs, with the cultural, social and environmental needs. “We can have conversations with owners and trustees who can help give us insight. And they trust and respect the information we share with them.”
More than just developing the land
Recently, the business relationship team has been working with several trusts in the Bay of Plenty and Gisborne area helping them develop kiwifruit orchards on the whenua. But this important work goes far beyond the development of the land.
“It’s about the wrap-around services too. Being able to provide them with good services and good support so they’re able to do the mahi they want to do. When working with our people, you get a good sense that it’s about creating a legacy for the next generation. Ultimately, our people want to be good kaitiaki,” says Jessica.
“So it’s about providing opportunities for our people and ensuring that we’re protecting the land for this generation and the next.”
Heather McPhee is a passionate owner and trustee for her whenua. She’s led the way with her trust, developing a long-term plan alongside fellow owners. One of the trust’s goals is to create an income from the whenua to help build a papakāinga for owners to return to.
“That’s what we’re striving to do. Getting other landowners to come in and create this vision. That’s what our working group meetings have been about. To spread the word and do something positive,” says Heather.
A recent meeting held in Taranaki gave Heather an indication that the hard work was paying off.
“One thing that blew me away recently was, that for years I’ve gone back to Taranaki for these meetings. And one day I turned up to a meeting and I thought there was a tangi on! There were so many cars. It was unbelievable! But it was actually people who came to listen and to participate.
If you can start the wheels turning and create that, then that’s success in my eyes.”
Achieving something wonderful
For Heather, a major factor in reaching this point has been working with Te Tumu Paeroa.
“Without their support and their knowledge, it wouldn’t be where it is today. There are people just as passionate within Te Tumu Paeroa who work in different fields and have these wonderful skills,” says Heather.
“Together, we’ve achieved something wonderful.”