News from home / Business
1 Sep 2013

The kaupapa of “Positioning Maori Agribusiness to capture Global Market Opportunities” attracted over one hundred and sixty people to a hui held at Shed 3 in Gisborne on the 18th and 19th of July. Hilton Collier, farming advisor for Pakihiroa Farms, coordinated the event which encouraged participants to consider ways those with an interest in the Maori Agribusiness sector might work better together to improve productivity and profitability.

Hilton Collier, farming advisor for Pakihiroa Farms, coordinated the event which encouraged participants to consider ways those with an interest in the Maori Agribusiness sector might work better together to improve productivity and profitability.

Among the line-up of thought provoking speakers included: Craig Adams – Marketing Manager of Merino NZ, Denis Watson – CEO of Watson and Son, Te Horipo Karaitiana – CEO of the Federation of Maori Authorities and Mark Ngata – GM of Ngati Porou Seafood Group.

Nati Link (NL) caught up with Hilton (HEC) to ask him about the hui, and find out what the next steps are for Ngati Porou keen to get their products in front of global consumers.

NL: What was the purpose or motivation behind holding the hui?

HEC: We get rich or pohara depending on the actions of other people (Meat company’s stock agents and the like), and the way they pay us for our products. Our aim is to drive better returns to our landowners for the things we produce here in Ngati Porou, whether we are looking at meat, wool, honey or kumara. In the Pakeha world the components of profitability include selling more, selling at a higher price or cutting costs.

The “producing” is all about how we farm or grow our products, or our best practice. Controlling pricing is harder – it means producing things people want, how they want it and in the form they want to buy it. To do this we need to know what people value, not what it costs, but what they are willing to pay.

For example an iPad might cost less than $100 to make, but we will pay perhaps $900 for an Ipad. It is different to simply saying we have this product, if you want it pay us this price. In this situation someone else will come along and say buy it from us and we give you a 10% discount. This is a race to the bottom and we end up cutting each other throats.

We all know Briscoe’s regularly has sales, so we wait for the sales before we shop there. But we don’t want to be like Briscoe’s – we want people to come to us because we have the products they want, and they like dealing with us.

Also this hui got other Iwi talking. Recently with Uncle Api, I spoke to the Iwi Leadership Group at Hopuhopu. Overwhelmingly those I met afterwards were supportive of our kaupapa and expressed a strong desire to be part of our journey. We should also recognise the role of Ta Apirana in driving the retention of Maori land. Other Iwi still acknowledge his work and leadership in their whaikorero today, and they see this as an extension of his foundations.

NL: Were you surprised at the amount of people who attended the hui, and where they came from?

HEC: The turnout was phenomenal. We thought we would attract support, but we were overwhelmed with the level of interest. Most people were our landowners from the Tairawhiti. We also had manuhiri from other areas including Te Arawa, Maniapoto and Tuwharetoa. We had people from Te Tumu Paeroa, Ministry for Primary Industries, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and the Ag ITO, as well as Commercial Businesses wanting to engage with us as we position ourselves into this new world.

NL: What was the type of feedback you received from those who came to the hui?

HEC: We had hugely positive feedback, and before the hui we already had strong expressions of interest from our people who want to be involved with the Wagyu and Honey programs. We expect to announce an opportunity with Merino NZ in the near future.

The key to successfully converting this strategy into benefits for us at home will be to understand what is required to make each of these opportunities winners, to be clear about the risks and how we manage those, to understand we are the drivers. And not be distracted by those who are benefitting most from the status quo, to understand we need to work together and believe we can do it.

We have the models – the Waiapu Farmers and the Ngati Porou Dairy Co-op were hugely successful in the time of our parents and grandparents. We lost touch with the international markets and so couldn’t respond to changes. Today we have our own people who have that global perspective and can use that knowledge to help our journey. Matanuku Mahuika chairs Sealords and Whai Dewes Aotearoa Fisheries. These are global businesses and despite some recent troubles they are successful businesses operating internationally. Not every decision will be a good one – equally not every decision will mean failure.

NL: What was the feedback you received from the speakers from outside the region?

HEC: All the speakers were stunned by the attendance and engagement. They were all made to feel as though they were home with whanau, and the depth of discussion surprised them. Most had not experienced this before and Ngati Porou made a lasting impression.

I was with Merino NZ who are keen to Incorporate some of our kawa and tikanga into their story, so they will be back to discuss this in the near future. Also it was good to hear the likes of the Seafoods Group wanting to link up with Lucy Cruickshank and her Indigenous Cuisine NZ Cluster. The keyword in the future will be whakawhanaungatanga.

NL: What was the outcome of the hui? Was there interest from participants to keep meeting or do something collaboratively?

HEC: Our next step is to extend our network of local Agri businesses wanting to grow these opportunities together. This collaboration will run in tandem with initiatives in Te Arawa and possibly Taitokerau.

NL: What is the game plan going forward for the Tairawhiti Maori Agri-business sector?

HEC: We are planning another hui for ourselves in September to flesh out this network. We expect to have a Captain’s Table – A grouping of our key committee of management people who will oversee these initiatives.These people will engage with the governance of our strategic partners- the government agencies who will partner with us as we drive this agenda.

And we will look to get these people overseas into these global markets as we did with Lance Rickard, Stephen Thomson and Casino Smith.These 3 people sold our Wagyu – they talked to the people buying it and understood what they were prepared to pay for the meat.

NL: For Ngati Porou land owners and farmers with small land blocks and limited access to capital what opportunities are there for them to capture global market opportunities?

HEC: Our thinking is holistic – it’s how we create opportunities for all our landowners large and modest. If we look at the Wagyu program, the smaller landowners might either rear calves for the larger blocks or they may simply have a smaller mob – say 10 to 20 rather than 200 to 300. The smaller blocks might want to make hay or grow crops for the larger blocks.

We are working on some models around the funding question. This may involve say Pakihiroa Farms buying 100 cattle and grazing them on the smaller blocks or something similar. We don’t have all the answer but we are willing to work with anyone who can contribute to making this journey work for all.

Equally we won’t get rich quick, but we won’t be any worse off and we will be driving the bus, not watching it pass us by. In the early days kiwifruit made modest levels of profitability. As they grew this market profits improved. This is the desired outcome for us.

NL: You were recently elected as the President of the New Zealand Institute of Primary Industry Management. What does that role involve, and will this role help move Ngati Porou’s interests in this sector forward?

HEC: I Chair the Board representing New Zealand’s Rural Professionals, including other farm advisors, fertiliser, chemical representatives, bankers and rural accountants. It allows me to share our thinking on these matters with other people likely to come into contact with us here in Ngati Porou.

It also creates a different platform for me to engage with other Agri Business leaders to test our thinking, and to seek new innovative ways of doing business. This includes senior executives from the Dairy and Sheep and beef Sectors. It is often surprising that even today many commercial enterprises do not understand or know how to engage with Maori. They recognise we are different and have different drivers to them. And they do recognise we are going tobe major players in the future of Aotearoa.

Also my appointment to Hei kai kei aku ringa (Maori Economic Development Advisory Board) fills a similar role, except it gives us access to Minsters and Government agencies. One of the big frustrations for us is the Government has over the years set the agenda and we (Maori) spend all our time trying to work out what it means.

The Government has given and taken over the years – often with no or little benefit to Maori. In 2013the destination is ours. The journey is ours and the Government simply the provider of the fuel – if they wish. We are creating our own future consistent with our tikanga. We may get it right or wrong but we are the drivers.

To get in contact with Hilton: Email: Cell- phone: 0274491072

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