21 Sep 2018

Omapere Rangihamama Trust: a country comeback story

From Country Life, 9:18 pm on 21 September 2018
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Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

In 2007, the Omapere Rangihamama Trust was broke. A decade later, the Far North Trust won the prestigious Ahuwhenua Māori Excellence in Farming Award for the top sheep and beef farm in Aotearoa.

Omapere Rangihamama farms was run by the Māori Affairs Department as two sheep and beef properties from the 1950s until the late 1970s, and these were eventually handed back to the trust in a sorry financial position.

They continued to decline for the next three decades until a new management team with clear strategies and visions was put in place in 2007.

In just three years, the Trust's nearly $1 million debt was paid off and the businesses turned around.

Now the Trust's 1400-hectare Omapere farm is transitioning from sheep and beef to predominantly bull beef. 

It's going well and every year the first item put into the farm budget is an educational scholarship fund for shareholders' children.

The Rangihamama Farm is a sheep and beef unit with a 200-hectare, four-year-old dairy conversion as part of the portfolio.

At the time it was seen as a prudent way to spread risk, but what followed was two years of the lowest dairy payouts in history, says trustee Bruce Cutforth with a laugh.

"That farm is [now] performing well above the norm for the North."

In days gone by, the Rangihamama land was the market gardening centre for Ngāpuhi.

Cutforth says that could happen again, although this time with larger horticulture interests like kiwifruit. 

Water "bubbles out of the ground" on the site, but it must be protected and sustainably used, he says.

Interim Trust chairman Te Tuhi Robust concurs: "The Trust vision is to protect the whenua (land) for future generations."