Far North iwi, Te Runanga o NgāiTakoto, has started planting its new 20-hectare avocado orchard, Rakau Ora, in Kaitaia. The project is the result of 4 years of extensive planning, in partnership with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and key businesses in the horticulture sector.
"The orchard is a means to achieve our aspiration of using our Treaty settlement assets to build a strong economic base for our people," says Rangitane Marsden, chief executive of NgāiTakoto.
"It will enable greater productive use of the iwi's land and create new employment opportunities. This is a platform to begin the realisation of our vision, "If we live as we ought, we shall know things as they are, and if we see things as they are, we shall live as we ought". It's a tribute to our kaumātua and kuia who paved the way to settlement."
Andrew McConnell, MPI's Māori agribusiness director, says his team has partnered with NgāiTakoto as the iwi has progressed along the stages of the whenua development pathway.
"It is great to see the shelter up and plants in the ground. Rakau Ora is now set to achieve greater benefits for the NgāiTakoto people and will contribute value to Northland's GDP [gross domestic product] too.
"We are delighted the iwi is entering this high-value food sector. It's an excellent example of promoting whānau development through whenua, as part of our strategy to grow our partnership with iwi and Māori landowners. They had all the right ingredients to make good use of what we could offer through the Māori Agribusiness Pathway to Increased Productivity (MAPIP) Programme. We've connected them with the right expertise."
Iwi member Claire Tamati is the newly appointed trainee orchard manager. "This ties in with the iwi succession strategy," says Rangitane. "We are placing some of our people with potential to be future business leaders in our enterprises so they can be mentored and gain experience.
"Twenty hectares is just the start," he says. "We plan to expand this current platform with an additional 40 hectares over the next 2 years, and with a total potential to extend the orchard to 200 hectares over a planned 10 years."
Te Runanga o NgāiTakoto is a Far North tribal authority that signed a Deed of Settlement with the Crown in 2012. The redress from that settlement included land that NgāiTakoto is developing in the tourism and primary industry sectors, including horticulture, dairy farming and forestry.