7 Jul 2017

Iwi Fruit

From Country Life, 9:28 pm on 7 July 2017

The new Māori Kiwifruit Growers' Forum will give Māori a collective voice in the industry and their own growers at the Zespri table.

No caption

Attendees at June's Maori Kiwifruit Growers' Forum Launch Photo: Amy Porter/Zespri

Drive down Matapihi Peninsula, which juts into Tauranga Harbour, and on either side of the road you'll see kiwifruit, lots of kiwifruit, behind tidily clipped rows of shelter trees.  

These hectares are part of local iwi Ngai Tukairangi's $100 million kiwifruit portfolio, which it has been building up since the 1970s.

Ngai Tukairangi Trust chairman Ratahi Cross says he's extremely grateful for the wisdom of his ancestors which saw them replacing cows with kiwifruit.

"They had a vision that you would say back then, others would have said, you're bloody crazy old fools, and this is a  product of their vision.  There's not a house here... there were plans for houses right across here, like the other peninsulas."

Ratahi says fear and trepidation at the risks of developing the properties was massive, but they did it, and now "good things are happening in Māoridom."

The Matapihi property has given the Trust a strong financial foundation and just after Christmas this year it purchased a 66-hectare kiwifruit property in Hawke's Bay for $40.2 million.  

Ratahi says "Māori have an ability not to spend money", and he certainly likes to hold on to a sizeable bank account when one has been built up, but the trust was ready to expand its horizons and this property came up for sale.

He says he doesn't want to crow about financial success, but when that success will help other Māori, he'll talk about it, and it's why he's keen to support the recently launched the Maori Kiwifruit Growers' Forum.

The forum aims to provide advocacy, education, training and general support for Māori growers.

Ratahi Cross says a lot of leases are ending with properties coming back into iwi hands so the forum can help educate trustees to manage the assets, maybe investing in kiwifruit.

He says they need to hear and be supported with positive stories because "success breeds success".

And while on a roll he adds, "with Māori land you have beneficiaries and I hate the word 'beneficiary' because they're the owner. So I don't use the word 'beneficiary'. It doesn't matter if you're .002  percent, you are still the owner of this multimillion dollar business. I instil in every single one 'I am somebody. I own that, I own Hastings, I am a multimillionaire', and isn't that a great thing to say, especially if you're Maori."

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to Country Life

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)