Keeping whanau in touch with their whenua
“It’s all about best land use – respecting mana whenua and balancing tangata whenua needs with environmental sustainability” is how Angela Wharekura, Client Manager describes her work in Māori land.
The Rotorua-based Māori whenua services team have been managing Māori Land Ahu Whenua Trusts for decades. Angela and her colleagues, Crystal Kusabs and Amber Taare, are firm believers in making the best use of Māori land – protecting and enhancing it. A great example of this has been the Otama Marere Trust near Paengaroa in the Bay of Plenty – for which Perpetual Guardian has been trustee since 1970.
Otama Marere originally belonged to Rangiwaho and his whanau. It came to be used as an overnight stop for travellers who had come up the Kaituna River by waka. The site was abundant in eels and watercress and the inhabitants grew kumara, kamo kamo and other vegetable crops.
For several decades the land had been leased to Te Puke Golf Club but the Otama Marere Trust regained control in the 1970s. In 1979, Perpetual Guardian was appointed responsible trustee to assist with all financial and managerial decisions. With funding from Māori Affairs, the site was converted for horticultural purposes in the 1980s. Guided by then Chairman, the late Huia Tapsell, a kiwifruit orchard was developed and other crops were planted.
The ‘gang’ (as they were affectionately referred to) of orchard workers was comprised entirely of women – banging in the posts, nailing the pergolas and laying out the wire.
Unfortunately, explains Homman Tapsell (currently the Orchard Manager and one of the advisory committee members), they suffered poor crop returns in the first year. With support from Perpetual Guardian, they concentrated their efforts on the kiwifruit orchard and turned things around.
“Since then, the Trust has gone from strength to strength”, Homman Tapsell says.
Today, the orchard is one of the most successful in the Te Puke area and the Trust assets have grown to include interests in two South Island farms. Although modest in size, the Trust is an excellent example of land used well and boasts not only a very healthy kiwifruit orchard but also a forestry area, buildings which are leased to the local beekeeper, and areas leased for grazing to an adjoining land owner. This creates multiple streams of income for the Trust – who are now planting avocado as well!
While there is a strong drive towards commercial activity, the new advisory board of trustees are working towards preserving areas of the whenua in its natural state. Their latest project is re-establishing the original wetland area with native species, and they are working with the regional council and Ngā Whenua Rāhui on this.
The Trust supports its owners through the payment of annual kaumātua and education grants as well as dividends.
The involvement and support of Perpetual Guardian have been invaluable to this Trust. Homman Tapsell says, “Perpetual Guardian are still supporting us today in the role of responsible trustee and adviser. I must thank Angela and her team for their efforts.”