The field day at Mawhera attracted 120 people, showing how interested the local people are in seeing what the Incorporation has achieved and what its goals are for the future.

Whare Tipuna - Tuhuru - Arahura Marae

Mawhera Incorporation are a finalist for the 2018 Ahuwhenua Trophy BNZ Māori Excellence in Farming Award for dairy. Their farm consists of 348ha in the Arahura Valley, north of the West Coast town of Hokitika where they milk 500 cows that produce 190,000 kgMS. As part of the competition, finalists are required to run a field day to showcase their farm and its unique features to other farmers as well as the judges of the competition.

The Chairman of the Ahuwhenua Trophy Management Committee, Kingi Smiler says the Proprietors of Mawhera Incorporation, based near Hokitika on the West Coast of the South Island are to be congratulated for the excellent field day they organised on their property this week.

“In the past we talked about entering the farm in the Ahuwhenua Trophy competition, but we didn’t feel ready,” said James Russell, Chairman of the Proprietors of Mawhera Incorporation. “However with Rakaia Incorporation winning the Trophy in 2016, Mawhera thought it was appropriate at this time to enter the competition. To become a finalist is an honour and a privilege”.

The Ahuwhenua Trophy is the most prestigious award for Māori agriculture. It is now 85 years since the visionary Māori leader Sir Apirana Ngata and the Governor General at the time Lord Bledisloe launched this award. Since the re-launch of the competition in 2003 Māori agribusiness is now seen as an integral part of the New Zealand economy.

Kingi Smiler says one of the great features of the Ahuwhenua Trophy competition are the field days. He says it is an opportunity for finalists to tell the story about the history of their property, how it has been developed and to highlight their achievements. He says the field day at Mawhera attracted 120 people and this shows how interested the local people are in seeing what the Incorporation has achieved and what its goals are for the future.

“It is one thing to read about the achievements of a farming enterprise, but when you can go out and see the land and cows and meet the people and take in the environment in which they operate. In the case of Mawhera that is dealing with 3 metres of rainfall annually, it gives a new and better perspective. Mawhera Incorporation have set aspirational goals and have put in place systems to achieve these. This come through in their story and is manifest in the actual farming operation,” he says.

Kingi says it has been a very difficult year because of the erratic weather conditions for Mawhera Incorporation and other West Coast dairy farmers. But he says they have shown resilience in dealing with the difficult climatic conditions to produce a fine result and a good looking farm.

Mawhera Tuatahi Farm consists of 348ha in the Arahura Valley, north of the West Coast town of Hokitika. The milking platform is 257ha and the 500 cows produce 190,000 kgMS. The historical formation of Mawhera Incorporation dates to the 1800s when Kāi Tahu, by conquest of Kāi Wairaki and Tumatakokiri, gained occupation of the manawhenua of the Tai Poutini (West Coast, South Island).

After the signing of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, the Crown purchased approximately 3.1 million hectares of land but excluded 4,139ha to be held in 54 reserves along the breadth of Tai Poutini. Of these 54 reserves, 39 were Schedule A Reserves (2,721ha) which were for individual allotments and clearly intended to be used and occupied by their Kāi Tahu owners. The balance was held in 11 Schedule B Reserves totalling 1,416ha and was leased to provide income towards the general social, religious and moral benefit of the owners.

The Arahura riverbed, of huge cultural significance due to its pounamu deposits, was exempt from the purchase.

The land within the Arahura Māori Reserve was leased out to European dairy farmers via perpetual leases by successive agents representing the Crown, including the Commissioner, Public Trustee and the Māori Trustee.

After changes to the law in 1967 Māori Affairs Amendment Act the owners took their concerns regarding the administration of the reserves to the Crown. In the 1973 a Royal Commission of Inquiry was set up to investigate the Māori Reserved Land. It recommended that 24 Tai Poutini reserves be constituted by statute, a Māori Incorporation, if the owners desired. They did, and on the 17th May 1976 the Governor General issued an Order in Council, cited as the Mawhera Incorporation Order 1976 effective from 31st May 1976, establishing the Proprietors of Mawhera Incorporation.

In 1993, the Incorporation made the visionary decision to acquire the lease interests in nine leaseholder properties on the south bank of the Arahura River (approx. 194ha) and to pursue administering the farms as successful businesses themselves.

The Incorporation brought European freehold titled land adjacent to the Arahura Reserve and the Mawhera Tuatahi Farm (62ha) in 1994 to increase the milking platform of the farm to 201ha. It acquired the Wellstar Farm in 2009, which consists of 12ha of Māori leasehold land within the Arahura Māori Reserve and 80ha of European freehold title adjacent to the Arahura Reserve and Mawhera Tuatahi. There is 55ha of the total land purchased to still be developed.

Since that decision in 1994, extensive development has occurred on the property using the profits made from farming in both new infrastructure and additional land. The Incorporation has always used 50:50 sharemilkers to farm the land. They bring experience, motivation and technical expertise to the business. The current sharemilkers, Mark and Debbie Van Beek joined the farm in 2006.

Dairy farming is now one of the Incorporations major investments comprising of two farms within the reserve, Mawhera Tuatahi and Te Hewera and a third dairy farm on the Karamea Reserve called Umere. The Incorporation’s other major investments include commercial and residential properties on the West Coast. This can only be done with a clear vision for best land use, sustainable profits and environmental practices.

James Russell

The Committee of Management is: James Mason Russell (Chair), Janyne Morrison (Deputy Chair), Marie-Louise Tacon, Tuhorano Wilson, Tim Reriti, Tihou Messenger-Weepu, Tim Bateman and John Wheelans (Secretary).

“The success of our investments would not have occurred without the passion, common purpose and support of our Committee, West Coast community and most importantly our shareholders”.

Media Contact: James Russell, Chairman – 03 755 6313.

The winner of the Award will be announced at a function at the Wigram Air Force Museum in Christchurch on Friday 25th May.