Māori agribusiness sets target to cut emissions by 10 percent

Posted 16 December 2022 by Moana Ellis
Cows at a dairy farm in Waikato.

Cows on a dairy farm in Waikato. Photo: RNZ / Sally Round

Climate change has become a critical focus for Māori agribusiness Ātihau-Whanganuiorporation.

It has set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent before 2028.

The collective of more than 9000 Māori shareholders produces lamb, beef, milk, wool and honey across 42,000 hectares of ancestral land at the foot of Ruapehu and along the Whanganui River’s middle reaches.

Committee of Management chair Dr Tiwha Puketapu told the annual general meeting in Whanganui the board’s focus was to look after the land so the land can look after the people.

He told shareholders the farming business was “definitely and seriously” affected by climate change.

“So much so that we have and will continue to give our attention to reducing the impact of our farming activities on the whenua.

“We will look at the activities that we engage in and why. We will be concerned to ensure that we are reducing greenhouse gases and our carbon footprint.

“It’s easy to say those words, it’s a lot more difficult to make that happen. That is the task that your incorporation is faced with.”

Ātihau was also focused on best land use, Puketapu said. Of its 42,000ha, only half is suitable for farming.

Puketapu said sustainable kaitiakitanga of the rest of the land was another key focus and the Board was looking at alternative land use options to enhance income streams.

The incorporation was bracing for the continued impact of rising costs on profit margins and how Ātihau applies that profit for the benefit of shareholders and whānau.

But Puketapu assured shareholders that the incorporation was set up to look after owners and beneficiaries.

“One, to look after what we have; two, to support those who appreciate and look forward to the dividend; thirdly, to ensure we are able to distribute to and support those of us who need assistance, such as our grants that we provide to kaumātua for medical and other reasons, to our tamariki and to our youth (and to those not so youthful) who choose to cherish and pursue an education and training track; and to our marae, so that we can return and know that it’s not falling down and it’s being looked after.”

Chief executive Andrew Beijeman told shareholders the incorporation planted 14.5ha of native trees last year, completed 5.7km of riparian fencing and set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent.

He said the past 12 months had been focused on understanding how much the business was emitting, and creating plans to reduce those emissions.

Plans to reduce methane emissions centre on reducing livestock numbers and changing land use to forestry and mānuka for honey. Other measures include productivity improvements, mainly on the finishing farms.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.