Wi Pere Trust

September 2017

The growth strategy of the Wi Pere Trust.

The Wi Pere Trust is a legacy left by Wiremu Pere for his descendants. Pere was the son of a Poverty Bay trader and a local Maori woman, Riria Mauaranui. He was heavily involved in Maori affairs in the Poverty Bay area, opposed the sale or confiscation of Maori land - and was a successful farmer. He regularly appeared before the Native land Court and was regarded as an outstanding orator in Te Reo Maori. He was elected to parliament for the Eastern Maori seat in 1884. He lost the seat to Apiranga Ngata in 1905. 

The Wi Pere Trust Estate is said to be one of the most successful family estates in New Zealand. It was established in 1899 and by 2014, it had 460 beneficiaries and net assets of $66M. It owns farms (Otara and Tangihanga Stations), is a contract grape grower, has a joint venture in a quarry, as well as the orchard business. The Trust (like most Maori authorities) pays out benefits to its beneficiaries on a regular basis. 

There are 350 growers in New Zealand producing around $60M worth of citrus crops each year on an estimated 1700 hectares. Survey figures show close to 36,000 tonnes were produced nationally. Of this, Gisborne growers produced 56 percent of the fruit, with 34 percent from Northland, 9 percent from the Auckland district and 1 percent from the Bay of Plenty. 

The fertile soils around Gisborne make an ideal base for cropping and horticulture. The area is ideal for citrus and for the last decade, the region is where most of the country’s navel oranges are grown. It is also a significant mandarin growing area although Kerikeri beats the region on volume. 

The Wi Pere Trust has 100 hectares of citrus, kiwifruit, grapes and persimmons but in the next few years that will grow to 150 hectares. Emphasis is being put on crops like navel oranges and kiwifruit, which have export opportunities attached and means the Trust won't have to rely on the local market. 

Wayne Hall is the horticultural operations manager for the Wi Pere Trust. He says the Trust is working with a Gisborne exporter who is keen to send local citrus to Japan and China. With the increased plantings of navel oranges in particular he says there are a lot of job opportunities, but attracting young people is hard. 

The horticulture side of the business has six full time employees and up to 40 casuals during the peak times in the orchards. Wayne says in years to come Wi Pere will also want people with marketing skills. 

The company is moving out of grapes - he says they don’t see a future in them. They are considering their options and have already planted significant amounts of kiwifruit and persimmons. 

Two years ago they introduced a new scheme to independently test their fruit to make sure fruit is at top standard when it gets to the market.

He says there have been increasing plantings right through the district in citrus – especially lemons. He says there has been good success in exporting some of those crops. 

Wayne says there are marketers that are keen to export crops out of Gisborne. He says it just a matter of getting the quality to meet market expectations. The main markets for citrus are Japan and China. 

He says production is going to quadruple and they are aiming to get 25% to export standard.