A kiwifruit farm highlighting innovation and excellence in Māori farming.
Otama Marere was one of three finalists in the Ahuwhenua Trophy competition in 2020 for innovation and excellence in Maori farming. 2020 was the first year that horticulture has been included in the awards that are supported by MPI. Due to Covid-19 lockdowns, the scheduled field day on their Paengaroa orchard was not held, but the trust was featured in the annual handbook.
Kiwifruit orchard development began in the 1980s on privately owned land near Paengaroa and has since diversified into gold kiwifruit, organic production and lately, Gem avocado planting. Along with the wetland planting, the orchard development is a showplace of Maori horticulture, including hapu employment, pest and disease management and conversion to organics.
Otama Marere is on 45ha of mostly flat to easy rolling land that was once housed Te Puke golf club on a long-term lease. Moderately steeper hills and steep faces connect terraces down to the Kaituna River and a gully with forestry and wetlands completes the property. The trust has 588 owners and supports educational, sporting, cultural, hardship and tangihana grants. The orchard is known as a leader in Maori kiwifruit and organic SunGold kiwifruit, and Zespri brings overseas growers and visitors to the orchard. The trust also provides education to other Maori growers and the public.
Under the management of Huia Tapsell, the Maori owners began developing the land into a green kiwifruit orchard in the mid-1980s. Homman Tapsell took over as orchard manager in 2007. In his mid-40s he completed a Diploma in Horticulture from Lincoln University. He is now the manager and a trustee of Otama Marere Paengaroa North A5, manages other orchards for Seeka and is on the committee of the NZ Maori Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated.
Homman has introduced gold and organic kiwifruit and the diversification into Gem avocados.
The orchard contains 11.87ha of Hayward Green, 9.3ha of SunGold G3 and 2.1ha of Gem avocados in four blocks, totalling 950 trees. Gem is a California cultivar grown in NZ under licence from Seeka. Gem is thought to be highly suited to high-density planting as it grows in a more compact habit compared with Hass. It is reported to be high yielding, less alternate bearing than Hass, precocious and bears its fruit inside the canopy. It is also reported to have slightly greater frost tolerance than Hass trees.
Kiwifruit harvesting and packing is contracted to Seeka and goes through its Te Puke packhouse. In the 2018-19 season the 17.6 canopy hectares of kiwifruit produced an average of 53,900kg/ha and revenue of $114,000/ha. Profit was $52,000/ha after costs of $61,000/ha.
Total equity is $12 million and the return on equity is 8% annually. Assets have almost totally been funded out of equity, not by debt. In 2018-2019, Otama Marere distributed $144,000, with distributions averaging 25% of profit for the past three years.
Wetland planting is carried out with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and the Nga Whenua Rahui Fund and has to date planted 7600 native plants. Fencing of waterways and wetlands is complete and planting of kauri and manuka undertaken for future wood sources for carving. The wetlands help to keep pests at bay and filter out the chemicals from getting into the waterways. Otama Marere is adjacent to the Kaituna River and neighbours the pā site historically occupied by Rangiiwaho and his descendants. At that time, the wetland around the pā was abundant in tuna and other wetland species, while the orchard land was used for growing vegetables such as watercress, kumara and kamokamo.
The highest point of the orchard is 30-40m above the Kaituna and heavy rain produces water run-off that is now intercepted by the wetlands. BOP Regional Council is also advising on weed and pest control.
Conversion to organic SunGold has occurred on 3.5ha of new planting and certification also gained on a further 3.5ha of Sungold that was grafted on to Hort 16A gold hit by PSA. Bio-Gro certification was gained a few weeks ago after three years of transition. The protocols include approvals for all sprays, fertilisers and composts, soil testing for any possible chemical use and annual inspections by Bio-Gro. This will be the first harvest of organic Sungold and Tapsell anticipates $2/tray extra, or more. Fruit numbers and sizes are looking very good this season and picking may begin for the Early Start Zespri premium, without the use of Hi-Cane to accelerate flowering and development. The new planting occurred on a former sand and pumice quarry site that was reclaimed and recontoured and now has irrigation using bore water and drippers.
Showdown Productions Ltd. Rural Delivery Series 16 2021