Training Maori Farm Managers

August 2014

A programme to address the shortage of Maori farm managres on Maori owned farms

A farm at Tiniroto has been set up by iwi of Turanganui a Kiwa as a dedicated training farm for Maori farm cadets from the Tairawhiti area.

In 2010, as a result of a challenge from industry and iwi, Turanga Ararau, the iwi tertiary provider of Te Runanga O Turanga A Kiwa, set up the Tairawhiti Farm Cadet programme to address the low numbers of Maori managing their own collectively owned farms.

Within the Te Tairawhiti (Gisborne East Coast) region there are about 40 incorporations and trusts farming properties of 3000ha on average, but there are only six Maori managers running them.

In 2011 Turanga Ararau purchased Greenlakes Station from a local Maori incorporation for the specific purpose of establishing a dedicated training farm and the following year erected purpose-built residential quarters for the cadets.

The Tairawhiti Farm Cadet Steering Committee, representative of Maori farming interests and the wider industry, was also established and provides support and direction to the scheme. This year assistance for this has been accessed through the recently established Maori trade training initiative.

The Tairawhiti Farm Cadet Programme is based at Greenlake Station, Tiniroto. The farm is owned by three iwi who make up the Te Runanga O Turanga-A-Kiwa with its tertiary education provider Turanga Ararua now offering a two year cadetship programme.

The farm runs around 1500 Romdale ewes and their lambs, and has 70 breeding cows and 130 bull beef bulls. It is a 500ha farm, of which 378ha are effective. The rest includes two lakes, a 69ha kanuka block in the middle of the farm, which is protected with a QEII National Trust covenant, and river reserve.

It was previously a deer farm, so needs a bit more development to turn it into a fully functioning sheep and beef farm, including setting up a new woolshed and reticulating water. A four-stand woolshed is being moved from a nearby Landcorp property.

The farm cadet programme is in its fifth year and has been operating at Tiniroto for the past three years.

The new hostel has been built to double as a lodge and venue for seminars and short courses when cadets are off-farm during holidays. There is also potential to open up the farm for horse trekking, fishing and bush walks.

Manager Harley Barlow started work in late December 2012. He is originally from the Hokianga, and has extensive farming experience in Northland, on the East Coast and in Canterbury. “I have owned my own farm, managed stations, and worked in both islands. I used to be a pest control contractor on possums and goats, and I taught a lot of courses up North.” Harley was taught farming skills by his uncles in the Hokianga and Bay of Islands. “That is why I am doing this now. You have to be able to give something back. Without these young fellows, coming through with the necessary skills and knowledge, the industry will not develop.”

Last year Harley and his partner Kellie Mayo, who is also training as an adult educator, were responsible for the delivery of three different agriculture qualifications. They were helped by tutors delivering specific subjects. Harley teaches all the practical farming units and some theory and Kellie teaches theory as well. Harley says the biggest challenge is co-ordinating it all and keeping the students fully engaged.

Every job takes much longer than on a normal farm, he says. That’s because when they bring a mob of ewes in for drafting, every cadet has to learn how to do the job. “A two hour job might turn into a whole day for us, but it’s the only way to learn.”

This year the cadets are working towards three different level three agriculture qualifications including the national certificates in farming (work ready) and the national certificates in animal health and husbandry and stockmanship.

This year there are nine cadets, three of whom are in their second year and six in their first year. It has the capacity to take up to 22 students in future when more development has been carried out on the farm.

Although the majority of the cadets are Māori, the opportunity is open and they have had female cadets who have done very well, although there are none this year.

Their backgrounds are varied, with a mix of young people with a rural or city background. Generally they are aged 16-18. Criteria for entry is that cadets already hold a level two qualification or have demonstrated skills to be able to cope with the level three programmes.

The main criteria is a genuine interest in working in the industry and a commitment to gain the skills and qualifications to become future managers and be involved at a governance level as committee members.

There’s a good success rate of previous cadets getting jobs in the industry, especially in the Gisborne, Wairoa and East Coast area and contact is maintained with them all.

On leaving the cadets are encouraged and helped to continue their studies through apprenticeships with the PrimaryITO. One former student Delia Teesdale went on to Lincoln University.

There are no fees for the programme and cadets do not have to pay to stay in the quarters, so they do not have to take out a student loan and end up with a student debt when they leave the farm. Because of this, they are required to cook for themselves, which is a good skill to have when working on farms. They have weekends off and travel is provided to and from town.

As well as theory unit standards including animal health, soils, pastures and production management, they are taught how to handle stock, break and ride a horse, and how to safely and competently ride quad bikes and ATVs as well as tractors.

Towards the end of their first year they get a young heading dog pup and learn how to train it themselves. “If they need a driver’s license, we can also help them there”, Harley says.

Work experience is arranged with local farmers including Greg Law, on Rob and Karen Newman’s Tiniroto Station, Norana Station, Rick Spence’s property St Leger and Chris Harris’ farm nearby. “It gives the cadets a different perspective and a different attitude. Maybe they are doing exactly the same job, but doing it in a different way, giving them wider skills and a better understanding of the industry beyond Greenlakes’ farm gate, as well as meeting other people.”

Attendance at field days and trips outside of the region to look at the wider industry and experience Mystery Creek are all part of the programme.

Other tutors from the wider organisation contribute to the programme. Forestry tutors take the cadets for chainsaw safety and skills, a Reo Maori tutor teaches Reo Maori and tikanga, and a specialist literacy/numeracy tutor is also involved.

“The community is very supportive of the programme and we like to help out in events, like the community crutching fundraising for the local school.”