Two years ago the Tiroa E and Te Hape B Trust decided that they needed to lift their public profile. The trustees made a commitment to enter the next Ahuwhenua competition as a way of measuring Te Hape B up against other sheep and beef farms.
This achievement, says Chairman Hardie Peni, has been a natural progression for Te Hape B farm.
Along with its sister properties, Tiroa, Waipa, and Wharekiri, Te Hape makes up the largest continuous area farmed by one entity in the Waitomo district. Located 500m above sea level, it contains the head waters of three major awa; Waipa, Waimiha and the Mokau River, 1224ha of native bush under Nga Whenua Rahui covenant, as well as maturing stands of Radiata Pine.
Today, 854 shareholders, all descendants of Rereahu, son of Raukawa, and father of Maniapoto, own the land which has a significant number of sacred sites within its boundaries including the Te Hape and Te Miringa te Kakara Marae.
It was originally surveyed in the late 1890s with cutting rights to mill rimu, totara and matai until the mid-1960s. By the late 1950s Te Hape was developed by the Department of Maori Affairs and then handed back to the owners in 1974 encumbered with debt and with little experience in mainstream governance or business management. However the benefits of improved subdivision, pasture management and changes to genetics are now starting to show positive results.
As a breeding and finishing unit, Te Hape B is the largest operation in the Trust’s 10,000ha land portfolio. It uses both leased and ancestral lands to run on average 31000 stock units of which are 62% Perendale cross sheep and 38% of which are cattle, mainly Angus.
The day to day management of the farms has always been carried out by some very experienced and skilled Farm Managers some of whom have been in these positions for a number of years. Winters on the station can be tough so Farm Manager, Ian Valler and his staff try to finish as many animals as possible and reduce capital stock numbers before the weather changes by utilising cropping to improve live weight gain and fill feed gaps.
Te Hape took a brief venture into Organic Farming on Waiatara in which 234ha was fully certified and carried between 320 - 350 cattle plus 250 ewes. Although premiums were good this operation was discontinued as the markets were immature and did not grow and proved to be erratic.
Today Te Tiroa and Te Hape Trust is economically strong enough to pay its shareholders dividends at 30% of net profit after tax. In addition, grants are offered for tangihanga and to eight Marae whose affiliation whakapapa to Rereahu. Interest from unclaimed dividends goes toward education grants.
Te Tiroa and Te Hape Trust have also embarked on a diversification strategy involving interests in Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, China and Taiwan. Closer to home, it is undergoing due diligence to purchase two former Crafar dairy farms close by which is currently being managed by Landcorp.