Organic dairy farm awarded for excellence in Māori farming


New Plymouth’s TSB Stadium rang with the sounds of a mighty haka on Friday 14 May when the winners of the 2021 Ahuwhenua Trophy were announced.

The Trophy is the most prestigious award for excellence in Māori  farming and this year went to Tataiwhetu Trust, located in the Rūātoki Valley, south of Whakatane.  

As the Minister of Agriculture, Hon Damien O’Connor, announced the winners there were scenes of jubilation as Trust members and whānau came on stage to join in the celebrations.

"Our driving statement is around pride, passion and performance," says Trust Chairperson Paki Nikora.

Tataiwhetu Trust is an organic dairy farm that supplies our Co-op, milking 432 kiwi cross cows and carrying 188 replacement stock on two support blocks. They milk once a day and their herd produces about 130,000 kgMS.

"Our belief is if we can get those few things right - right through our structure, right to those who benefit, right throughout our supporters - hopefully, we can instil that in all our people at home, because we have to believe that everything is possible. 

"I have to acknowledge our ancestors and parents for having the foresight to aggregate our lands that Apirana started in his time. And whoever thought almost a century later when Apirana Ngata was in our tūpuna whare that we would be here today celebrating this wonderful occasion," says Nikora.

The Ahuwhenua Trophy was inaugurated 88 years ago by Sir Apirana Ngata and the Governor General at the time, Lord Bledisloe. The objective was, and still is, to encourage Māori farmers to improve their land and their overall farming position with an emphasis on sustainability. On a three-year rotational basis, the Trophy is competed for by Māori in the sheep and beef, horticulture and dairy sectors.

Paki Nikora with the Ahuwhenua Cup

"Our driving statement is around pride, passion and performance."

Paki Nikora, Trust Chairperson

Kingi Smiler, Chairman of the Ahuwhenua Trophy Management Committee, says the standard of all the finalists this year was particularly high and the judges had their work cut out to come up with a winner. He says the field days run by all the finalists were extremely good and showed the quality and depth of Māori dairy farming enterprises. Each finalist excelled and all are great role models for farmers.

“But in the end Tataiwhetu Trust were determined the winners and they and their staff are to be congratulated for this. Their farm is very special and is yet another example of our people working innovatively and hard and focusing on key strategic objectives. They join an illustrious alumnus of past winners.”

In 2010 the Trust received the Ballance Farm Environment Award for the creation of special places on the farm, including the protection and enhancement of wetlands, landscape features and historical places.

In 2015 it transitioned from convention milking to organic. It is now fully certified by AsureQuality and in 2019 it received the Fonterra Organic certificate.