Otama Marere (Paengaroa North A5) Block

Otama Marere (Paengaroa North A5) Block in Paengaroa near the Bay of Plenty town of Te Puke has gone through a remarkable transition. The land was originally leased to the local golf club on a 60 year lease at two shillings and six pence per acre. When the lease on the 45.01 hectare block expired in the 1980s, Otama Marere took back the land and converted the golf course into an orchard.

Otama Marere (Paengaroa North A5) Block

Today, the orchard is a thriving diversified block. There is 11.87 hectares of Hayward Green kiwifruit which produces approximately 527,631 gross kgs per year. There are three blocks of SunGold G3 with 2.21 hectares in production. In 2018, Otama Marere became one of the first Maori owned orchards to embrace organic SunGold and converted 3.48 hectares of the existing SunGold G3 into an organic kiwifruit block. A further development of 3.06 hectares brings a total of 7.08 hectares to Otama Marere's organic Gold programme. While the organic is still in development, Otama Marere's SunGold kiwifruit produces approximately 418,435 gross kgs per year and this will rise in future years with the newly established organic blocks. Otama Marere has been branded a leader in organic SunGold kiwifruit with companies such as Zespri seeking to bring overseas visitors to the orchard. The conversion has also been an invaluable source for other Maori growers, with the Trust providing education and information to fellow growers and the public alike.

From 2018 – 2020, the Trust planted 950 Gem avocados spanning four separate blocks, a total of 2.1 hectares. A full return is expected on these avocados in year five. Adding to the diversity of the block, Otama Marere also receives Apiary income and grazing proceeds. The Trust is also in the proceeds of re-planting their forestry block which was milled in 2018 with a mix of Manuka and Kauri trees.

Otama Marere employs up to ten whanau owners at any one time, including the Orchard Manager Homman Tapsell. While these staff are employed on various tasks around the orchard, Seeka a packhouse and orchard services provider, assists with additional labour where needed, particularly around fruit picking.

While there are no sacred sites on the property, there is one on neighbouring land and the Trust is supporting the owners who are conducting investigations into how best to work with the neighbour on this issue. This is the pa site that was occupied by Rangiiwaho and his whanau. It provides the origins and significance of the name Otama Marere. At that time, the wetland around the pa was abundant in tuna and other vegetables, with the land where the orchard now is located being used for growing watercress, kumara, kamokamo and other vegetables. In order to acknowledge those who have come before and nourish the whenua, the Trust has now re-developed a wetland which has seen 7,600 native plants established to bring this area back to life. Birdlife have been attracted to this feature, along with the occasional eel.

The Otama Marere Trust has a strong commitment to its shareholders and provides a range of grants. These include grants to kaumatua, tangihana, cultural and sporting grants, education grants and a post-graduate scholarship. Owners in Otama Marere also receive annual dividends and are encouraged to reconnect to the orchard through visits and other events which are held there.

Otama Marere's golf course to kiwi fruit orchard is undoubtedly one of the most unusual and successful agricultural conversions in New Zealand's history.

Otama Marere Key Contact: Gemma Mills, 027 265 5695, Gemma.Mills@pgtrust.co.nz

Media can contact Peter Burke: 021 224 2183 / peterb@actrix.co.nz.

Photographs are free for use in relation to the competition. Visit www.bit.ly/ahuwhenuatrophy or contact John Cowpland, Alphapix: 027 253 3464 / info@alphapix.co.nz.

Our thanks to our valued Ahuwhenua Trophy sponsors: Te Puni Kōkiri and the Ministry for Primary Industries; Horticulture New Zealand, Te Tumu Paeroa, Bank of New Zealand and Plant & Food Research; Ballance Agri-Nutrients, Massey University, PGG Wrightson, FMG, Zespri, BDO and New Zealand Fruit Growers; Blue Wing Honda, AgFirst and Tohu Wine.

A big thanks also to sponsors of the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Grower Award: Te Puni Kōkiri, Primary ITO, Te Tumu Paeroa and Horticulture New Zealand.