Ahuwhenua: Central Hawke’s Bay field day proves popular

Bob Cottrell - Chairman Te Awahohonu Forest Trust
Bob Cottrell, chairman Te Awahohonu Forest Trust. Photo Alphapix.

A field day at historic Gwavas Station, Tikokino in Central Hawke’s Bay attracted a good crowd of people keen to see why this property is a finalist in this year’s Ahuwhenua Trophy for excellence in Māori sheep and beef farming.

The farm is owned by the Te Awahohonu Forest Trust which has Tarawera Station on the Napier Taupo Road which Gwavas complements. Gwavas Station is a 1,178 hectare (989 effective) property on which is wintered 12,000 stock units – split 50/50 between cattle and sheep. Three full time staff run property with input from two advisors.

Bob Cottrell, Te Awahohonu Forest Trust’s chairman described the turnout of people at the field day as exceptional. He says he hopes people go away from the field day with a good understanding of who the owners of the farm are and what they are doing.

The field day at Gwavas is the second of three field days to be held over three weeks. The final field day will be held at Kiriroa Station owned by Eugene and Pania King at Motu, 70km north west of Gisborne.

The field days are open to the public and are an opportunity for the finalists to demonstrate why they were selected as finalists for this prestigious award which was inaugurated 86 years ago by the great Maori leader, Sir Apirana Ngata and the Governor General at the time Lord Bledisloe.

Kingi Smiler, chairman of the Ahuwhenua Trust Management Committee which runs the competition, says the field day at Gwavas Station was an excellent event which highlighted the thought and work that had gone into developing the property.

“It was a good example of the strategic planning that had been undertaken by its owners the Te Awahohonu Forest Trust. They bought Gwavas as a finishing block to complement their other property, Tarawera which is largely a breeding operation. This shows that Māori are creating new farming enterprises that will help build resilience and mitigate risk to deal with volatile climatic and market conditions”.

Kingi Smiler says it is good to see large numbers of people turning up to the field days which are an integral part of the Ahuwhenua competition. He says the field days are chance for Maori to show the quality and professionalism of their farming operations.

“We are not just talking about good Māori farms, we are talking about farms which stand alongside some of the best farms in Aotearoa,” he says.

History of the farm

Te Awahohonu Forest Trust - Gwavas Station ALPH1902140441 (1)
Sheep and cattle at Gwavas Station, Te Awahohonu Forest Trus. Photo: alphapix.

Te Awahohonu Forest Trust was formed in 1971. The Trust is constituted by the Māori Land Court as an Ahu Whenua Trust. The Trust administers Tarawera C9 comprising 20,960ha in total, 8,428ha in Awahohonu forest, 2,623ha in Tarawera Station, and 9,909ha Ahimanawa (Native). In addition to Tarawera C9, the Trust owns 1,000ha at Gwavas Station, and a further 160ha farming property neighbouring Tarawera Station.

Gwavas Station was purchased by the Trust at auction in February 2011 and has undergone a significant development programme since purchase. The Farm is located at 5740 State highway 50, just north of Tikokino in Central Hawke’s Bay. Gwavas Station is 1,000 hectares and the Trust leases a further 178 hectares of adjoining land, combining to provide an effective farming area of 989 hectares. Gwavas Station itself has a farming history dating back to the mid-1800s, the original station once covering 33,000 acres of land in the area.

The property is of an irregular shape with State Highway 50 bisecting the farm at the north eastern and eastern ends of the property. Approximately 70% of the area is flat to easy rolling country. The balance consists of moderately steeper hills and steep faces connecting with lower terraces and riverbeds.

Gwavas Station sits in a region that can experience summer dry conditions and has a complex range of mainly free draining soils. These comprise Takapau silts and Tukituki gravelly sands on the flatter areas, Poporangi and Mangatahi soils on some intermediate terraces and rolling hills, and Gwavas sandy loams on the remaining easy and steeper hills.

The farm winters nearly 12,000 stock units comprising approximately 50 percent cattle and 50 percent sheep. Gwavas Station is farmed as an intensive dry land finishing property that compliments the Tarawera Station breeding operation. Between 14,000 and 16,000 lambs and approximately 800 cattle are finished annually depending on the season. The farm is effectively run with three full time labour units made up of the farm manager and two shepherds. The farm also has the input of the overall Trust Farm operations manager, and the support of a farm consultant. The Trust has a strong relationship with its shareholders, business partners and staff and developing skilled people across the business is a key objective of the Trust.

The objective for the Trust is to finish all stock bred off Tarawera Station and maximise returns through optimising slaughter weights and specifications alongside a profile of a broader out of season stock supply. The stock strategy currently has an element of breeding involved while the property continues to transition through development (to improve soil fertility and pastures). Optimising the potential of the farm economically while remaining kaitiaki (guardian) of all its resources and true to its values are key objectives of the Trust. Each generation of Trustees is expected to manage and pass on the assets of the Trust in better condition than when they were received.

The Ahuwhenua Trophy is the most prestigious award for excellence in Māori farming and was inaugurated in 1933 by the renowned Māori Leader, Sir Apirana Ngata and the Governor General at the time, Lord Bledisloe. The objective was and still is to encourage Māori farmers to improve their land and their overall farming position as kaitiaki. On a three year rotational basis, the Trophy is competed for by Māori farmers in the sheep and beef, horticulture and dairy sectors. The winner of the 2019 Ahuwhenua Trophy will be announced at a Gala Dinner in Gisborne on 24 May.

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