Tairawhiti Land Development

April 2009

Enhancing the productivity of Maori in Gisborne

The Tairawhiti Land Development Trust was set up in late 2004 to administer the Major Regional Initiative for the Tairawhiti Region with $1.8million by NZ Trade and Enterprise to encourage productivity increases with an emphasis on Maori land and connecting with exporters. Other funding came from Te Runanga o Ngati Porou and local councils.

This $2million investment is expected to return $28m over 10 years. Trust chairman is Kingi Smiler & the two other trustees are AgFirst consultant Hilton Collier and Wairoa farmer Dennis Munro.

In 2004 four opportunities were identified: kiwifruit, sweetcorn, lamb finishing and a monitor farm programme. These have led to six different projects, one of which is the Te Taumata programme based around seven farms near Wairoa, and more than 100,000 stock units on 22,700ha.

1. Tairawhiti Land Development Trust interview with Kingi Smiler

The Trust was formed to manage the programme set up by local iwi and local council and funded by NZ Trade and Enterprise. The Trust has been operating on behalf of those key stakeholders. The two key objectives of the funding which surrounded the NZTE money were: to enhance productivity particularly of Maori owned land in the Tairawhiti region, and linked to that to develop direct links with local exporters in the Tairawhiti region.

The Trust is there in a monitoring and mentoring role to support the different projects. There needs to be quite a lot of support and understanding to kick-start these projects.

Each project has a group of mentor farmers and they are making a significant contribution, helping work out what is doable, and what is not. Its a practical strength of these programmes.

Our view is that it has been reasonably successful: In total 21 farms from Potaka in the north to Raupunga in the south with 225,000 stock units are included in the six Trust projects. This represents 23% of Maori land on the coast and 6% of land across the total region. Landowners have to front up with about 30% of project costs in cash.

Most of the farms are large scale Maori owned trusts and incorporations. Its a reasonable proportion of agribusiness in Tairawhiti. All the programmes have met their current targets.

One of its most spectacular successes was the encouragement of sweetcorn and maize in the Ruatoria area for Cedenco. That opened the processors eyes to another area of our region which is extremely fertile. Export production there started at 80ha, and more than 2000ha went under the plough this year. People have also had a go at squash there.

At Tologa Bay there is a group of four farms working together: seeing each others problems, issues and opportunities, who knows down the track, one day the four farms could be one?

One of the TLDTs programmes is the Te Taumata Group Project based in the Wairoa district. Paparatu and its sister farm Tukemokihi are both in this programme. The goal of this programme has been to increased productivity by 15% over three years, and the third year has just finished. Over all the farms in the Te Taumata project production has increased 17.6% so it has achieved its goal.

Paparatu had a 12.7% increase in year one, a drop of 0.3% in year two because of the drought and an 18.7% increase in 2008, which is a 33.3% increase over the three years.

Other farms in the programme have increased by 10.1%, 33.6%, 18.9%, 14.5%, and one went backwards by 5.6%. The project has just been extended by another year to finish in June 2009.

As well as economic factors, we are hearing really good things about managers attitudes; We got AgResearch to do a report looking mostly at non-financial aspects of the project. Some of the training going on for these guys is really good, using Farmax and monitoring, spending time on their books

The programmes have gone extremely well: they have certainly boosted confidence of governance and management teams of these groups of farms quite significantly. The projects have benefits of putting best practices into place, better understanding and knowledge of industry requirements, and requirements of export markets. Also these farms have done a lot of capital investment as part of the programmes, and learnt to act together in collectives, gaining confidence from each other.

Kiwifruit programme never went, we looked at land around Gisborne, and landowners did their due diligence but decided the opportunity was too risky, and had a high capital requirement with an investment of probably $100,000/ha without buying a gold licence.

Weve had weather stations at Raupunga for 18 months, and been looking at susceptibility to frost. Also found quite high wind factor. Whilst it was felt kiwifruit could be grown, it was a high risk crop which could be mitigated with investment in irrigation systems for frost and major wind-breaks.

Theres a huge opportunity at Raupunga with a lot of good fertile flat land which is not being hugely utilized.

We have sufficient funding to take us through to June this year, and we are looking for further funding because in our view if we could take them out another three years it would really lock in the progress made. There has to be some time for development to take place, and we think that will certainly ensure the ability to sustain on an on-going basis the things they have developed.

Positive spin-offs for the communities will continue to occur in terms of personal satisfaction, knowledge and understanding, sustaining the confidence to create and maintain employment in this area.

Because these farms have scale compared with the small size of the average sheep and beef property the benefits of their scale and development will continue to go through into the future, which I see as very positive.

They are lifting their game and will continue to do that to move themselves above the average over time.

If there were opportunities to set up similar programmes in other areas it would be great.

2. Paparatu interview with Tom Te Kahu

I joined the programme initially to lift production; it really touched me, it really upped the anti with production on Maori farms.

I had no second thoughts about joining the programme, and was amongst the group when it was first mooted by Parekura Horomia in Wairoa. It has helped to get us where we needed to be. There was so much negativity around at the time, but if you dont join you get left behind. We have taken full advantage of what has been offered, and I am thankful to Jim Anderton and NZ Trade and Enterprise which has got this going.

We have gone ahead in leaps and bounds, in terms of production and infrastructure, and in getting valuable information from the group. It has been a team effort all the way.

Paparatu had a 12.7% increase in year one, a drop of 0.3% in year two because of the drought and an 18.7% increased in 2008, which is a 33.3% over the three years.

We won the Te Taumata Trophy in the first year for kg of production/ha. The competitive nature of the programme has done wonders, not just for Paparatu, but all the farms in the programme.

In the last 14 to 15 years a lot of development has gone on at Paparatu, but recently a new woolshed has been built. The farm had a lot of debt. Weve done miles and miles of fencing and subdivision, and fertiliser applications.

A lot of country has been broken in, but we have set aside 250ha with Nga Whenua Rahui. Theres plenty of manuka, and we get revenue from the honey people. To a degree manuka is now coming into its own value.

The farm is 5600ha, and has 3800ha of effective grazing, running sheep and cattle. It runs 30,000 stock units, with 60% sheep and 40% cattle.

We have decided to isolate areas that will never be farmed, but there is plenty of work still to be done up there.