Lead judge, Peter Little says all three finalists this year are exceptional young people who have set aspirational career goals and have worked hard to achieve these.

Cheyenne Wilson

The Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer Award was first held in 2012 and is designed to recognise talented up-and-coming young Māori farmers. It is also designed to encourage young Māori to make farming a career choice and to showcase to prospective employers, the talent pool that exists within Māori.

Since its inception the event has created interest within and outside Māoridom and has given finalists and winners a huge sense of pride and achievement. All have gone on to greater things since winning this event.

The award runs in tandem with the annual Ahuwhenua Trophy competition for the top sheep and beef or dairy farm of the year. The winner for the Young Māori Farmer will be announced at the function in Christchurch on Friday 25 May.

Lead judge, Peter Little says all three finalists this year are exceptional young people who have set aspirational career goals and have worked hard to achieve these. What’s more he says all three have plans to further their careers in the dairy industry.

“It is great to see young people reaping the rewards of their hard work and acting as role models for other young Māori who may be seeking a future in the dairy industry or who are looking at ways to move up the employment ladder in the sector. All three have undertaken Primary Industry Training Organisation courses and the value of these is shown in the progress that all of them have made in a matter of a few years in the dairy sector,” he says.

Peter Little says once again there was an excellent response for entrants for the awards and it was no easy task to select three finalists. He says all of this year’s finalists recognise just how prestigious the Young Māori Farmer Award is and know that being a finalist and possibly winning the competition, will enhance their career prospects.

Meet the finalists

Mathew Pooley – Ngāi Tahu, Koukourārata

Mathew Pooley

Mathew Pooley went straight into the dairy industry as soon as he left school at the age of fifteen. A decade on at the age of 25 he now manages one of Ngāi Tahu’s dairy farms, Maungatere, near Oxford which was a finalist in the 2016 Ahuwhenua Trophy competition.

His rise to the role of Farm Manager saw him work for two years on the Kerr Brothers farm near Lincoln before he decided to head overseas where he spent a further two years working on a long line fishing boat based out of the Cook Islands. It was during this time he realised his real passion lay with the dairy industry, so he came back to New Zealand. He spent another two years working for the Kerr’s and then decided he was ready for another challenge, moving to a dairy farm in Burnham before taking up a position with Ngāi Tahu Farms.

Mathew says he has a real passion for the land and caring for animals which he developed growing up on sheep and beef farms. The outdoor life appeals to Mathew with the love of hunting and fishing. He is the captain of a local rugby team and is a passionate Crusaders supporter. Another hobby is adventure motorbike riding and he has travelled to many parts of the world including Australia and Vietnam to pursue his interest in this sport.

One of his big projects outside of work is setting up a young farmers group called Te Whenua Hou which is designed to get young Māori farmers in the Eyrewell district together for a range of activities and to share ideas and knowledge. Mathew has always been involved in a number of Ngāi Tahu committees and Te Whenua Hou has the support of his iwi.

As part of his career development Mathew has completed a number of Primary ITO courses, namely level 2, 3 and 4 and also Milk Quality 1 and 2 and is in the process of completing level 5 Production Management. In his role of manager of Maungatere, Mathew is mentoring one of his staff to help this individual to achieve his goals and develop a career path in the dairy industry. Mathew manages three staff plus two extra during calving to help him with 900 cows on the property. He says he feels ready to put himself forward and be part of the Ahuwhenua experience. In terms of his future, Mathew says he is striving to better himself and is always looking for new challenges.

Cheyenne Wilson – Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa

Cheyenne Wilson

Cheyenne Wilson, 25, is from Southland and has spent all of her life on farms. Her parents worked on farms in Southland and when she left school, she worked in the shearing sheds and as a cook.

She says about five years ago she stumbled upon dairying and hasn’t looked back since. Cheyenne says it started when a local dairy farmer noticed her rearing calves as one of her many jobs she had at the time and offered her a full time role on his farm. After three years on this farm she moved up to Canterbury and is now working for Nathan and Erin Christian on Lochan Mor farm near Ashburton. Cheyenne is the Assistant Manager on the property, however in June will move to Culverden in North Canterbury to manage a 600 cow farm for Emlyn Francis.

Cheyenne has undertaken courses with Primary ITO, working her way through the various levels and is currently completing the Level 5 Production Management course.

Cheyenne knew no one when she came to Canterbury, but quickly developed new friendships by getting involved in Young Farmers and is Chairperson of the Hinds Club. She is also a regional leader for Dairy Womens Network Mid Canterbury. Last year she entered the Dairy Industry Awards and was the runner-up in the Trainee of the Year section in Canterbury/North Otago. This she says has helped raise her profile and will enhance her career opportunities. She enjoys hunting and also plays netball for a local club.

She says being born in Southland and with her marae being in the Bay of Plenty, she feels urbanised and hasn’t had the opportunities to engage in te ao Māori and tikanga Māori to the extent that she would like to, but has plans to change this.

Cheyenne has set a goal of becoming a strong Māori female leader in the dairy industry. She says there are very few Māori female leaders who are in active roles on farms and she wants to play a part in helping rangatahi to make a career in the dairy industry and to mentor and encourage them.

Cheyenne says the reason for entering the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer Award is to help strengthen and develop her leadership ambitions. She says the profile of the competition will help her achieve this. Cheyenne says being one of the finalists is also a way of acknowledging all the people who have supported and mentored her in her career.

Harepaora Ngaheu – Ngāti Awa, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui

Harepaora Ngaheu

Twenty six year old Harepaora Ngaheu is from the Bay of Plenty and is of Ngāti Awa and Te Whānau-ā-Apanui descent. He was a finalist in 2016, and felt that he lost out because of his inexperience, but this time around feels he has the necessary attitude and skills to be a positive role model for young Māori.

Harepaora was born in Porirua but his family soon moved north to a small rural town Te Teko near Whakatane, where he didn't make as much out of school as he would have liked.

For many years Harepaora drifted around but a key milestone in his life was his 21st birthday, which Harepaora remembers was the day he put his first cups on a dairy cow as part of a training course he was on at the time. Harepaora is also thankful for Aiesha his partner and two beautiful daughters Reve, 9; and Kesiah, 6 who have also grounded him.

He found the dairy industry and it found him. His break came when a local farmer Colin Wilson took him in hand and offered him a permanent job – a move that has proved life changing for him and his young family.

After a year working with Colin Wilson, Harepaora was then put in touch with another dairy farmer and it was there that he learned more about farm management. The following year Harepaora obtained a manager’s position and that gave him the opportunity to put all his skills and knowledge into practice. At the same time, he completed a level 3 course with tectra/emerge and is now doing the level 5 diploma in agribusiness. He says this is learning about how to run a profitable business and develop a wider knowledge of dairy farm management. He is currently an Acting Manager on one of Colin Wilson’s farms, however in the 2018/19 season Harepaora plans to go contract milking, and with Colin’s help, look into stock ownership while saving cash assets to open up more opportunities.

Dairy farming has been a lifesaver for Harepaora and has provided him and his family with a secure and enjoyable future. He says he wants to give back to the community by taking in young people like him that may need a new kick start in life, and help kids straight from school into the work force. He wants to teach them life skills and get them involved in saving their earnings to help pay their own way in life: do the mahi, get the treats!

He likes to fish, dive and hunt and has been both a keen rugby and rugby league player and in fact developed, managed and played in his own rugby league team. Harepaora loves the outdoors and animals and also enjoys working with big machinery. He also loves problem solving – finding out why a piece of equipment in the milking shed or a tractor has broken down and fixing it. Now he says it’s time to hang up his rugby boots and focus on his farming future and follow his girls to their sports and hopefully if it’s a beautiful day to go fishing or hunting.

Harepaora’s entry into the dairy industry has given him new hope, allowed him to demonstrate his potential as a farmer and to achieve new goals. His aspirations are not only to become a 50/50 Sharemilker in five years, but to help get young Māori off the streets and into employment whether it be farming or running their own business. Harepaora wants to be in a position where he can help lift his community.