The rapid revival of Māori horticulture was unmistakeable at this year’s Ahuwhenua Trophy Awards, with 2020 marking the first time this iconic Māori farming event was dedicated to horticulture enterprises.
Congratulating finalists at the Awards, Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson said growing large-scale māra kai is part of Māori DNA.
“Our ancestors brought their technology and practices into the very different environment of Aotearoa.
“Given this long history, it is exciting to see Māori landowners return to growing food to sustain their whānau and develop their whenua. It is also part of building resilient communities. We saw the benefits of this during the COVID-19 lockdown and the generosity of Māori and Iwi organisations that distributed home-grown food across Aotearoa,” he says.
Over the past 14 years Aotearoa has had a 300 percent growth in Māori horticulture, with more growth predicted.
“Our Government recognises the many economic and social benefits of Māori using their whenua for food production,” Willie Jackson said.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the horticulture sector contributes around $6 billion a year to the economy, and since lockdown has become a lifeline for redeployed workers from industries such as tourism, forestry and hospitality.
“As New Zealand recovers from the effects of the pandemic, we’re seeking new opportunities to help grow New Zealand’s economy and add value to the sector.
“Although some parts of the economy were hard hit by COVID, fruit exports – particularly kiwifruit – continue to hold strong. Fruit exports increased by 69 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to the same quarter last year. The sector is on track to at least match its export earnings last year despite a global recession.
“The proportion of Māori-owned horticultural land area has quadrupled since 2006. It is set to grow substantially, and innovation will catalyse this growth,” Damien O’Connor said.
In the last term, the Government delivered an ambitious Whenua Māori Programme to remove long-standing barriers and to stimulate new opportunities for whenua Māori and whānau.
The Ahuwhenua Trophy acknowledges and celebrates excellence in New Zealand’s important pastoral and horticultural sectors. This competition is held annually, alternating each year between dairy and sheep & beef, and now also horticulture. The 2020 competition celebrates Māori horticulturalists.
The inaugural finalists for the horticulture award are all kiwifruit growers from the Bay of Plenty: Ngāi Tukairangi Trust from Tauranga, Hineora Orchard from Te Kaha and Otama Marere from Te Puke.