18 Feb 2016

Family a boon in Maori farming award

3:24 pm on 18 February 2016

The re-development of a farm has helped a family with a sense of history reach the finals in the country's top Maori farming awards.

The Ahuwhenua Trophy celebrates excellence in Maori farming for sheep and beef and dairy, over alternate years.

The three dairy finalists announced at Parliament yesterday are Ngai Tahu Farming, the Proprietors of Rakaia Incorporation and Tewi Trust.

Tewi Trust is located in south Waikato near Tirau and the 138 hectare farm is run by 50-50 sharemilkers.

Trust chair Tuhi Watkinson said the farm had two waahi tapu sites and had kept a strong focus on Maori values.

"We have an education grant where our young rangatira can come and apply for it. We do a lot of marae supporting. We look after our urupa. We keep them tidy, we look after the headstones."

Tuhi's husband Ron, also a trustee, says it took determination and many years for the trust to own and work the land.

"The farm was leased out to Europeans for 50 years. Those leases expired in 1971 at which time Tuhi's father took over the running of the farm for the family and they worked it themselves for a number of years until they found it was more efficient to use sharemilkers. So from 1980 onwards, that has been the case.

"The trust was in a very run-down state when the family came back to it. Tuhi's father worked very hard himself, to get on top of the weeds, raise the fertility and ... replace the cow shed.

"Unfortunately he only lived for another three years so he didn't see the fruits of the labour he started and he would be very, very proud if he was here today."

The winner will be announced in May.