Bright future ahead for wāhine Māori growing careers in horticulture industry

20th June 2023

Bright future ahead for wāhine Māori growing careers in horticulture industry

One of the country’s most sought-after horticulture prizes, the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Grower of the Year Award has been presented to Grace Rehu (Rangitane, Taranaki) who works as a Leading Hand for T&G in Puketapu, Hawke’s Bay.

Sponsored by United Fresh New Zealand, the Ahuwhenua award recognises the achievements of young Māori in horticulture. This year the competition demonstrated the depth of talent that women bring to the industry with wāhine Māori named as all three finalists.

Rehu says the support of other wāhine in her whānau and that of her fellow nominees has been critical to her success.

“I feel so very privileged, and honoured. I couldn’t have done this without Alix and Erica by my side. We have built such a strong relationship over the last week, none of us wanted to win without the other,” she says.

Rehu wore a special korowai given to her from her Nan, Hana Rehu-Hunt, to accept her award at a gala dinner in Tauranga last week. She credits her Nan for modelling the vital leadership skills which contributed to her win.

“My nan taught everyone in my whānau what hard work looks like. She taught us to be punctual, respectful and to know the value of the dollar. She was the boss lady of the whānau,” says Rehu.

The award was presented after a three-day study tour for the young wāhine nominees, eventual winner Rehu, alongside Erica Henare (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Maniapoto), the Pipfruit and Kiwifruit Manager at Kono in Motueka and Alix Te Kere (Ngāti Kuhungunu, Ngāti Tu, Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Maniapoto), who is the Health and Safety Advisor for Rockit Management Services in Havelock North.

Like Rehu, both the other nominees highlighted the important role that the wāhine in their whānau played as mentors.

“My mum was a solo mum for a while and we’ve very grateful to her, she set the bar really high for my whānau and pushed us in the right direction,” said Henare.

While Te Kere noted that her mum was also involved in horticulture mahi.

“Mum used to work in the orchards, she was a single mum and raised me and my three siblings after dad passed, she gave us a good childhood, made time to go to sports with us,” said Te Kere.

United Fresh President Project Manager Carmel Ireland says the organisation is proud to support the award and excited to see the contribution the finalists will make to the industry in the coming years.

“Our young growers are the future of our industry, and we believe it’s important to tautoko them in every way possible to ensure our industry outlook continues to be positive. We believe the process of entering this award offers an empowering experience for rangatahi to reflect on their emerging careers,” he says.

“The talent and mātauranga shown by previous nominees highlight how these awards open up new pathways which have seen many become inspirational role models for the next generation of Māori growers.”

The Ahuwhenua Young Māori Grower of the Year Award nominees were judged on their skills and proficiency within a te ao Māori framework including values such as Manaakitanga, Whanaungatanga and Mana Motuhake. Also awarded at the gala event was the grand prize, the Ahuwhenua Trophy for the top Māori horticulture enterprise, which went to the Wi Pere Trust based near Gisborne.

About the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Grower of the Year award

The Ahuwhenua Trophy is the most prestigious award for Māori agriculture, originally launched in 1933 by the visionary Māori leader Sir Apirana Ngata and the Governor General at the time Lord Bledisloe. Since the re-launch of the competition in 2003 Māori agribusiness is now seen as an integral part of the New Zealand economy.

In 2020 the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Grower Award was introduced in recognition of the growing presence, excellence, and contribution of Māori across the Horticultural Industry.

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Ahuwhenua Young Māori Grower finalists with winner Grace.