A book which traces the proud and challenging history of Māori farming in New Zealand was launched this weekend at the Federation of Māori Authorities annual conference in Hastings.
The book called Ahuwhenua – Celebrating 80 Years of Māori Farming coincides with the 80th anniversary of the Ahuwhenuna Trophy BNZ Māori Excellence in Farming Award.
L-R: Kingi Smiler, Chairman, Ahuwhenua Trophy Management Committee; Hon Pita Sharples, Minister of Māori Affairs; and Dr Danny Keenan, author of the book.
The Trophy was inaugurated by Sir Apirana Ngata and the Governor General at the time, Lord Bledisloe with the aim of encouraging Māori to improve their farming operations.
The book which has been compiled by Danny Keenan, traces the history of what is the longest farming competition in New Zealand. When it was first inaugurated, the Auhwhenua Trophy was competed for by both dairy and sheep and beef farmers annually, but in 1954 it was decided that it should alternate between the two farming activities.
William Swinton from Raukokore in the Bay of Plenty was the original winner of the Trophy. In those days the book tells of how he and other Māori farmers and their families worked their hearts out to clear the land and improve the performance of their stock and to produce high quality milk. They had to find ways to further process their milk and build their own dairy factories and then export their produce. In those days there were 'scrub cows' and milking sheds were quite basic – some with just dirt floors.
The book points to the fact that Māori were forced to farm on mostly poor quality land in remote areas as a result of their prime land being taken. It also notes the barriers that Māori faced to get finance to improve their farms.
The Ahuwhenua Trophy Management Committee Chairman, Kingi Smiler, says the story of Māori farming is an important part of New Zealand social history which up until now has remained untold.
"It is a compelling, factual look at the amazing achievements of Māori farmers and their contribution to their people and the country. The book features all the past winners of the competition and it will be of particular interest to their whanau. Every trust and incorporation should have one. I think it will also be a revelation to many Pakeha who are unaware of both the past and present achievements of Maori" he says.
Kingi Smiler says Māori tend to 'fly under the radar', but the reality is that their contribution to the overall economy is huge. "For example, about ten percent of the milk produced in New Zealand comes from Māori farms. They also make a huge contribution to the sheep and beef sector. The top ten Māori incorporations control over $2 billion in assets, most of which is in the primary sector" he says.
Kingi Smiler says the Ahuwhenua Trophy has been instrumental in lifting the performance of Māori agribusiness. He says the new book Ahuwhenua – Celebrating 80 Years of Māori Farming is a fitting tribute to the inspirational Sir Apirana Ngata and his supporters who have given Māori and New Zealand a legacy of success and ongoing aspirational goals to achieve.
The Ahuwhenua Trophy BNZ Māori Excellence in Farming Award is appreciative of our sponsors who made the book possible, and would like to thank BNZ, Fonterra, Te Tumu Paeroa, Ballance Agri-Nutrients, Te Puni Kokiri, BDO and the Federation of Māori Authorities, for their generous support.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to order your copy and for further comment contact the Chairman of the Ahuwhenua Trophy Management Committee, Kingi Smiler, 027 245 2477.