2024 Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer Winner

The winner of the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer Award for Dairy is Ben Purua, of Tainui descent. Ben, 29, is the Farm Manager at Waimakariri Lands Ltd, near Tirau in the Waikato region which runs 540 cows.

The announcement was made by Dr Charlotte Severne, the Māori Trustee and Chief Executive of Te Tumu Paeroa at the Ahuwhenua Trophy awards in Hamilton on Friday 17 May. The Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer Award was inaugurated in 2012 and is designed to recognise up and coming young Māori in the pastoral and horticulture sectors.

The other two finalists in the competition are Hannah Speakman, Ngāti Kahungunu, 21, who is employed as the 2IC for Woodlands Farming on the Craigmore farm, Pine Hill Dairy in Enfield, near Oamaru; and Shayden Gardiner, Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngā Rauru, Ngāti Rangi, 21, the Assistant Farm Manager for Ma Taua Dairies, Rylib Group, near Ashburton.

Among more than 850 guests at the announcement were the Prime Minister, Rt Hon Christopher Luxon, Hon Tama Potaka, Kiingi Tuheitia and the Royal Consort Makau Ariki Atawhai, and Sir Tumu and Lady Susan Te Heuheu.

When Dr Severne made the announcement there was huge outpouring of emotion both on the stage and among the audience. Dr Severne says there wasn’t a dry eye on the stage. Ben Purua had been a finalist in this competition three years ago and his win now was widely applauded.

Dr Severne praised all the finalists and says the country needs more young people like them to enter the primary sector. She also presented each of them with a $7,500 scholarship that they can use to further develop their careers.

Ben Purua thanked his whānau and friends and paid a special tribute to his wife Nikki whom he says has been his greatest supporter and who encouraged him to enter the competition again. He says missing out the first time was hard, but it was a learning curve and he took the opportunity to see where he could improve.

“Farming has been my saviour. I don’t know where I would have been today without it. It saved my life, saved my family and I hope I can now help other families to break the cycle,” he says.

Lead Judge Matiu Julian of Primary ITO says every year choosing the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer/Grower ambassador is always difficult. By entering the award the finalists quickly realise they are a part of a long history of Māori endeavour, resilience, and tenacity. “The whole competition is about personal development and we take the finalists into new spaces, where they get to meet a whole new whānau who enable them to grow, connect and learn,” he says.

Matiu Julian says over the past three years, Ben Purua has grown exponentially, and now wants to support his community and be a representative of the Ahuwhenua community. He will join an impressive alumni group of young leaders who are advancing the Māori agribusiness sector into the future.

The Chair of the Ahuwhenua Trophy Management Committee Nukuhia Hadfield congratulated Ben Purua on winning the award and praised the other finalists in saying their enthusiasm, competence and commitment to agriculture is clearly evident.

AYMF finalists and award sponsors. L-R: Dave Samuels, Jim van der Poel, Shayden Gardiner, Ben Purua, Hannah Speakman, Andrea Leslie, Dr Charlotte Severne, Hamish Pike. https://photoshelter.alphapix.co.nz/gallery-image/AHU24-Awards-Dinner-Hamilton/G0000yyWF94KnsY0/I0000QgtQ.N32iZI/C00006Dts1SDfNgw

Ben Purua


Ben Purua, 29, is the Farm Manager at Waimakariri Lands Ltd. He oversees the management of the 540 cow, System 5 dairy farm located near Tirau in the South Waikato for Chap and Ashleigh Zwiers and Jack and Tiz Sheares.

Ben faced adversity in his upbringing in Pukekohe, including exposure to gang life, substance abuse, and domestic violence. This led him on a journey in and out of youth prison and eventually to Waikeria Prison. However, it was during his time at Waikeria Prison that Ben discovered an opportunity to work on the prison farms and this ignited a newfound passion for farming. This transformative experience provided Ben with a path to positively redirect his life.

Ben now uses his personal journey of transformation as a presenter at the Waikeria Prison Farm open days. There, he recounts his journey of overcoming adversity and the profound influence of farming on his life. His goal is to inspire hope and motivation amongst the men there and encourage them to embrace new possibilities and look at farming as a promising career. Ben aims to establish a transition farm to support men reintegrating into society after prison, and he currently mentors men working in the agriculture industry who share similar backgrounds to his own.

Ben also actively engages with the community, advocating for youth retention in the food and fibre sector and he serves as a council member of the Food and Fibre youth network. He recently showcased his insights in Wellington as a presenter at the Food and Fibre Centre for Vocational Excellence Conference, emphasising the importance of nurturing talent in the industry. He is also an active member of the Piarere Young Farmers.

Despite facing the challenge of dyslexia, Ben has successfully completed his Apprenticeship in Agriculture, along with attaining his Level 3 and Level 4 qualifications in Dairy Farming. He now uses his knowledge to assist individuals contending with dyslexia and brain injuries, providing valuable support and guidance to help them fulfil their own tertiary training requirements.

Apart from his work and community commitments, Ben and his wife Nikki have introduced their own clothing line called Kāmu tō Pāmu (meaning ‘calm your farm’), aiming to advocate for well-being and positivity. You can find their collection at www.kamutopamu.co.nz. Ben also uses his profile ‘FarmUpNz’ to share his life and journey on the social media platforms TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook.

For Ben, farming is more than just a career—it's a passion that fuels his spirit. He finds joy in the early mornings, the tranquillity of the starlit sky, and he has a profound connection to the whenua. Through his journey, Ben hopes to inspire and empower more individuals to pursue rewarding careers in the dairy industry.

Nikki and Ben Purua https://photoshelter.alphapix.co.nz/gallery-image/AHU24-Awards-Dinner-Hamilton/G0000yyWF94KnsY0/I00008wmt1toeKbc/C00006Dts1SDfNgw

Hannah Speakman, Ben Purua and Shayden Gardiner https://photoshelter.alphapix.co.nz/gallery-image/AHU24-Awards-Dinner-Hamilton/G0000yyWF94KnsY0/I0000wmLgupUITGM/C00006Dts1SDfNgw

Ahuwhenua Trophy Chair, Nukuhia Hadfield with AYMF 2024 Winner: Ben Purua https://photoshelter.alphapix.co.nz/gallery-image/AHU24-Awards-Dinner-Hamilton/G0000yyWF94KnsY0/I00005fSQxlqxAqs/C00006Dts1SDfNgw

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 Farmer Award: Te Tumu Paeroa, Te Puni Kōkiri, Primary ITO, Dairy NZ, and MSD Animal Health.

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