Maori kiwifruit project possibly ‘biggest ever investment’
There, with a commanding view out across Te Moana-a-Toi (the Bay of Plenty), is Otuwhare Marae, the site chosen to launch a bold new programme that will see $30 million spent developing kiwifruit orchards on more than
90ha of M-aori land.
Omaio is home to some of the land in the programme, including one block, Omaio 39, that has already been developed and planted as part of a pilot. But that wasn’t the only reason the gathering of kiwifruit industry leaders and stakeholders took
place here, as Jamie Tuuta, the M-aori Trustee and chief executive officer of Te Tumu Paeroa explained. “We felt it was really important to get a lot of the people that are involved in the industry to travel to Omaio, to not only be here with us to witness this event but also get to know and understand the local community, and also the local circumstances here in Omaio and further up the coast.”
Under what is called the Kiwifruit Mobilisation Programme, Jamie Tuuta explained that Te Tumu Paeroa “will invest, we will build, we will develop, we will operate these ten orchards, and then we will transfer the orchards to the M-aori land owners
within a 12 to 17 year period”.
The programme is being run in partnership with Quayside Holdings, the investment arm of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, and seeks to overcome some of the obstacles M-aori landowners face in trying to develop their land, which often has multiple owners.The Omaio 39 block, for example, has 83 owners; some other blocks have as many as 2,000.
“One of the challenges is always capital,” Jamie said. “Second is confidence, third which is linked to confidence and probably capital, is trust. But fourthly there is this fear that a lot of our M-aori landowners have to put their land forward as security.” Under the Kiwifruit Mobilisation Programme, said to be the single largest kiwifruit investment ever made on M-aori land, Te Tumu Paeroa and its partners will provide the capital and shoulder the risk. The M-aori landowners will lease their land to Te Tumu Paeroa while it is being developed, and for a period of time after it has come into production so that the investors can recover costs and make a return.
The project’s goal is to upskill local people along the way and transfer fully productive orchards back to the M-aori owners at completion. According to Te Tumu Paeroa’s “Kiwifruit FAQ” document, the project is classed as high risk for its investors, who are only expecting a 12% return. By 2030, based on today’s returns, Te Tumu Paeroa says the orchards are expected to generate more than $80,000 a hectare per year, or a total of $7.1 million. As well as local M-aori landowners and the people of the
marae, attendees at the opening ceremony included MP
for Waiariki and Minister for M-aori After some korero and kai, those Development Te Ururoa Flavell; the attending the opening were taken by chief executive of Zespri, Lain Jager; minivan to see Omaio 39, off State the chair and chief executive of New Highway 35 not far from Otuwhare Zealand Kiwifruit Growers, Doug Brown Marae, which is about 55 kilometres
- and Nikki Johnson; and Opotiki District northeast of Opotiki. The block is just Mayor, John Forbes. over 8.5ha in size, of which 4.6ha has
been contoured, developed and planted. ‘TUMULTUOUS AT TIMES’ Local post-harvest company Opotiki Kiritapu Allan, a business consultant with Packing and Coolstorage (OPAC) Te Tumu Paeroa, has been working with managed the work, and the first harvest landowners since 2012 to get Omaio from the block will be in 2019, ultimately 39 up and running, and she said things producing both Hayward green and had been tumultuous at times. “They’d SunGold (G3). (Jamie Tuuta said that Te had an avocado orchard on site that had Tumu Paeroa had secured 20ha of G3 had issues, and it was not going to be licence in the latest allocation round.) sustainable moving forward. And it had
Other sites for development in the a lot of emotional connection for the
programme include Matakana Island in owners – people who had sown those
Tauranga Harbour, more sites along the trees had passed on.”
coast east of Opotiki and possibly in the She said the owners “wanted something Gisborne area. that still brought in capital but a project that brings the families together to focus ‘TREMENDOUS GROWTH’ on the kaupapa, and that kaupapa has Zespri’s Lain Jager congratulated those been this orchard for the last couple of involved in the project which he said years”. Now, she said, when meetings are would mean “tremendous growth in called up at Omaio 39, “owners travel M-aori business in M-aori kiwifruit”. The from far and wide to come”.
land at Omaio is great for growing kiwifruit, he said. “It’s got really, really good sun, it’s early and it’s high sugar, when you plant Gold here it’s going to be a fabulous crop, and it’s going to be a high value crop and so you’ve got all the ingredients
to create tremendous value.”
“We’re about $2.3 billion of revenue today. We can see a future by 2025 of $4.5 billion. It means our business is going to double in size, and that’s going to take investment from growers, but it represents tremendous opportunities
for all of us,” Lain Jager said.
One of the owners of Omaio 39, Phillip Albert, said that from their point of view, it
was really a matter of the financial assistance they received to get into kiwifruit “because as you know, most M-aori land owners don’t have the finance to get into
things like kiwifruit because the price is too high”.
Phillip Albert said it had been a marvellous journey for the owners. “Te Tumu Paeroa has taught us a hell of a lot about how to get these things together, and I would recommend it to other owners in the district.”
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