2023 Ahuwhenua Young Māori Grower Finalists Announced

The finalists in the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Grower Award for 2023 have been announced. They are:

  • Alix Te Kere, Ngati Kuhungunu, Ngati Tu, Ngati Maru, Ngati Maniapoto. Health and Safety Advisor, Rockit Management Services, Hastings.

  • Erica Henare, Ngati Kahungunu, Ngati Maniapoto. Pip Fruit and Kiwifruit Manager, Kono NZ LP, Motueka.

  • Grace Rehu, Rangitane, Taranaki. Leading Hand Turners and Growers, Puketapu, Hawke’s Bay.

The Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer and Grower award was inaugurated in 2012 and is designed to recognise up and coming young Māori in the pastoral and horticulture sectors. The three finalists this year were selected from a number of entrants from around the country. This is only the second year the competition for the Young Māori Grower has been held.

Representing Te Tumu Paeroa and the judging panel, Aaron Hunt says despite all the recent challenges that the horticultural sector has faced in recent months it is amazing to see three very worthy young Māori growers come forward as finalists. He says all of them have demonstrated that they are committed to working in the sector and have fine leadership qualities.

Aaron Hunt says horticulture is in the DNA of Māori and they are naturally close to the whenua both physically and spiritually. It is perhaps why more and more young Māori are choosing career paths in this sector.

“Despite all the recent destruction caused by cyclone Gabrielle and other storms, and the frost that hit the kiwifruit badly last October, there is still a strong spirit of hope and resilience in the sector. Māori also have the advantage in that they believe in the long-term plan and know that they will overcome the present headwinds, globally and locally. For young Māori, the horticulture industry remains a great career option offering an appealing outdoor lifestyle but the lure of technology and innovation is taking the sector to new levels. The opportunities in this and other areas of the primary sector are limitless,” he says.

Aaron Hunt says since the competition was inaugurated it has brought to the fore some outstanding Māori young farmers and growers who are exemplars for all young people in Aotearoa. He says this alumni is fast becoming a powerful network which is showcasing emerging Māori leaders who show industry achievement.

This year’s finalists in the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Grower award will be at some of the field days being held by the Ahuwhenua Trophy finalists. He says this will give them the opportunity to widen their networks, meet leaders in the horticultural industry and further develop their leadership opportunities.

Finalist Summaries


Alix Te Kere

Ngati Kuhungunu, Ngati Tu, Ngati Maru, Ngati Maniapoto

Alix Te Kere, 30, is the Health and Safety Advisor for Rockit Management Services. Alix has been in this role for a year and a half, having been at Rockit for 5 years now with previous roles as Senior Leading Hand, Health and Safety representative, and Welfare Officer in the Havelock sector.

Alix completed her last year of high school while she was pregnant with her first son. She was on the benefit, and with the responsibility to provide for him she knew she did not want to be on the benefit forever. She joined Crasborns when she turned 18, working night shifts while her son slept so she could spend the day time with him. Once the packing season ended, she started in the orchards. It was only meant to be temporary, but she fell in love with being outside and being in the orchards, and was grateful to have people there who taught her the basics of orcharding.

Alix worked in early childhood while she was hapu with her second son, then again with her third son, before joining Rockit in 2018.

She has finished her Level 4 in Fruit Production, and plans to continue on to Level 5 in Horticulture. She has also completed a hazard and risk identification course, and intends to expand her knowledge in health and safety.

Alix has learned a lot while working as a Health and Safety Advisor. “I have an amazing connection with all the staff in field, helped by my strong background as an orchard hand and just by being that person people can rely on – that’s what makes my job fun and exciting. Sometimes tiring, but it’s a good work life balance.”

Being in this role allows her to do the school run and to attend her kids sports, which used to be impossible when her and her partner would start early and finish late.

Rockit has 700 hectare of NZ orchards, of which 450 hectares are run by Rockit Management Services and the remaining for independent growers. Rockit is unique in many ways: besides growing snack sized premium apples and feeding the world, Rockit grows their staff, assisting them in taking the next step up the working ladder like Alix. Alix started the cadetship programme whilst working for Rockit in 2019 and has recently graduated.

In their free time with their boys, Alix and her partner enjoy diving and gathering kai for the whanau, being outside with nature and renovating their whare. Having time to enjoy being in the presence of her whanau is what she loves.

Erica Henare

Ngati Kahungunu, Ngati Maniapoto

Erica Henare is 27 years old and is the Pipfruit and Kiwifruit Manager at Kono, a new position for her. Erica first went to Motueka for a holiday before deciding to join Kono as a casual thinner for the summer break. She quickly fell in love with the job and the environment. From here, all of Erica's doors opened and her career accelerated.

Kono orchards are located in a place that holds immense significance to local Māori, with 224 hectares of planted land. Kono’s Motueka orchards grow apples, kiwifruit, pears, and hops. Erica is responsible for the day-to-day operations for a large part of the orchard and the working teams.

Being an iwi-owned organisation, it is recognised that people are the key to their success. Erica has developed her skills managing teams and has the respect of her peers by showing her commitment to manaakitanga, which is one of the values Kono promotes alongside rangatiratanga, whanaungatanga and kaitiakitanga.

Helping her team set personal and professional goals as part of their development demonstrates her caring approach in supporting others. Most importantly, she has built her people skills to develop a great rapport with colleagues both older and more experienced in the industry, and this has assisted her to progress quickly in her career.

Erica has her Horticulture Level 3 and is currently working on her Level 4. Her next goal is to proceed to Level 5.

When Erica is off the orchard, she enjoys spending quality time with her whanau and her three sons, aged nine, eight, and seven. Their favourite getaway is the beach. Her future goal is to buy a home for her and her sons.

Grace Rehu

Rangitane, Taranaki

Grace Rehu, 21, is a Leading Hand for Turners and Growers in Puketapu, Hawke’s Bay. Grace grew up in Foxton and moved to the Hawke’s Bay when she was 10, with her first introduction into horticulture a few years later, where every summer school holidays she would work at a strawberry farm in Hastings.

Working there was an amazing experience, with all of her family having done at least one season there with her nan who had worked there for many years. From here, Grace gained the passion for working outdoors and with the whenua.

During her last year in high school, she worked night shifts at Turners and Growers East site packhouse, and after finishing school, Grace stayed in the packhouse to work as a Quality Control. While it was great to learn about our markets and the legal requirements, Grace wanted to experience working outdoors again. She spent some time in the development team planting and redeveloping blocks, but then was offered a permanent position in a sector.

She is now in a team of 15 permanent staff working over approximately 100 hectares of apple orchards. Grace currently supervises a Samoan RSE team of 11 for the harvest season, as well as undertaking crop spraying, pruning and all tasks involved with fruit production. Cyclone Gabrielle unfortunately hit some of the crop, which has made this season particularly tough to hit targets and maximize the crop they have.

During her four years working with Turners and Growers Grace has been a part of the Emerging Leaders programme which has had a huge impact on her personal and professional development. She has also done the Vehicles, Machinery, and Infrastructure course through E.I.T to expand her knowledge about machinery they use on the orchard every day. She has attended many internal training days for Quality Controlling and machinery safety, gaining more knowledge on running and teaching teams and operating machinery efficiently and safely.

Grace loves spending time with whanau and being at the beach, fishing, and diving. Her goal is to be able to successfully run a block from planting to harvest, and then eventually take on a management role. She wishes to inspire rangatahi in horticulture, and show them that it is more than just picking apples – “if I can do it, so can our future wāhine and tane.” Turners and Grower’s vision is to “grow healthier future’s through fresh produce” and Grace wants to execute that vision every day.

Media can contact Peter Burke, 021 2242184 - peterj@true-to-ireland.com

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

A big thanks also to sponsors of the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Grower Award: Te Puni Kōkiri, Te Pūkenga Work Based Learning Limited (Trading as Primary ITO), Te Tumu Paeroa, United Fresh New Zealand Incorporated and Muka Tangata People, Food and Fibre Workforce Development Council.

Previous Post Next Post