Ahuwhenua Trophy Competition Field Day - Tātaiwhetū Trust at Tauarau Marae, Rūātoki

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It’s an honour to be here in Rūātoki today, a rohe with such a proud and dynamic history of resilience, excellence and mana.

Tūhoe moumou kai, moumou taonga, moumou tangata ki te pō.

The Ahuwhenua Trophy competition is the legacy of a seed planted 88 years ago by Tā Apirana Ngata and Lord Bledisloe.

They wanted whānau Māori to aspire to better standards of farming and to showcase Māori excellence.

Today, we acknowledge the talented Māori dairy farmers and farms that embody that legacy and vision.

The farmers who today, are kaitiaki for their environments and for generations of their whānau.

The legacy of Land Consolidation

This valley and this farm have direct links to those two great leaders, Tā Apirana Ngata and Lord Bledisloe, and their legacy.

It was here at Tauarau Marae in 1921, that Sir Apirana Ngata held that important Land Consolidation meeting to float the idea of subdividing the land into productive units that would still support families to live their lives on their whenua.

As with all discussions around whenua, it wasn’t taken lightly, and the hui ran for over a month.

Nearly a decade later, Lord Bledisloe, visited Rūātoki to check in on the Consolidation Scheme and its progress.

Sadly, by the mid-1950s, it was painfully clear the land blocks were far too small for whānau to thrive.

On top of that, local Tūhoe farmers relied on cows culled from Pākehā farms.

They had the leftovers, hardly prime farming livestock, so they couldn’t get decent production levels to make a decent income.

Many Tūhoe whānau were forced to walk off their land in search of employment and income. Lots of them are still there today.

Meanwhile, the whenua was left desolate. But your tīpuna and your parents never stopped wanting to get back to use their whenua ūkaipō as their source of prosperity, wellbeing and Tūhoetanga. 

Reconnecting with whenua

Knowing this not-so-distant history makes looking at this impressive operation today all the more poignant. All the more of an achievement.

The beginning of the regeneration came in 1986 when six Ngatirongo families agreed to combine their lands to form the Ngatirongo Trust Farm.

Today, it is an example of dairy farming excellence.

Whenua reforms

This is what I look forward to seeing more of. This is what we are working to achieve with whānau throughout the country.

Already this year significant law changes have happened to make it easier for more Māori landowners to connect with and use their whenua.

In the last few days, in fact, changes to the rating of Māori land mean that unrecoverable rate debt on any land; including rates debts inherited from deceased owners can be written-off by councils immediately.

In addition, Māori land that is completely unused will be non-rateable, and rates arrears on unused Māori land automatically removed.

It’s the first time this legislation has been updated in 100 years. It’s huge for our people.

It’s all part of the wider mahi Te Puni Kōkiri is doing for Māori landowners to get them back on their own land to live prosperous, connected lives of opportunities and hope.

Example for the future

Tātaiwhetū Farms - you can proudly take your place alongside this year’s other outstanding Ahuwhenua Trophy – Excellence in Māori Dairy Farming Award finalists - Pouarua Farms and Tunapahore B2A Incorporation.

Not only have you been selected as an Ahuwhenua Trophy finalist, but you’ve also earned other awards for your environmental work protecting wetlands and historical places on the farm, and accolades for your work in biodiversity.

And to boot, you have transitioned from conventional milking to certified organic.

Tātaiwhetū Farms, you and your fellow nominees, are excellent examples for the future. Examples of whānau Māori who are dedicated to lifting the wellbeing of whānau and sustainably developing your whenua to its full potential.

Your commitment to caring for our people, our land and our waterways will endure across generations – just as Tā Apirana and Lord Bledisloe had wished.

Nui te mihi ki a koutou katoa.

ENDS