Māori landowners are being called to a whenua Māori conference in Whanganui next month to identify and support land development and economic opportunities.
Organised by local Māori business network Te Manu Atatū, the Whenua Māori Summit on 18 August will by attended by owners of small or large blocks, including lifestyle blocks, privately-owned land or collectively owned and governed land.
Te Manu Atatū Māori Business Growth co-ordinator Kat Wade said the one-day event was free and had been initiated in partnership with the Whanganui District Council’s economic development agency Whanganui and Partners to ensure whānau understood the opportunities for how to use their land.
“The Whenua Māori summit is a full day of speakers from government agencies to provide our whānau with information on connecting to support that’s available,” Wade said.
“There are two sessions, one is information sharing and the other is networking and workshops so that we can gather feedback from whānau about their needs, aspirations and struggles, feeding that information back so that we can further develop the relationship between whenua owners and government agencies.”
Te Manu Atatū said many Māori landowners were collectivising and collaborating on ventures, including working blocks together for better productivity around a particular product, for example, honey. Small block owners wanting to work on a bigger scale are collaborating in areas such as farming.
Te Manu Atatū board member Hayden Potaka said barriers to building housing on Māori land was another issue frequently raised by Māori landowners.
“Even though we’re not looking specifically at housing issues with this summit, housing on Māori land is an issue that keeps coming up for Māori landowners,” Potaka said.
“We’re aware of quite a lot of issues with whenua Māori in general, in terms of the legislation and the ability for it to enable our Māori landowners to enter into business and enterprise, and also just all-out connection with Māori land.
“It’s not always about the business end, it’s about knowing the identity with the whenua as well, and that’s quite important for our landowners – it comes out quite frequently in discussion forums we attend.
“It’s very important that we come together and are able to speak together about what our aspirations are for the whenua and for ourselves,” Potaka said.
Whanganui and Partners agribusiness strategic lead Colleen Sheldon said climate change was another burning issue.
“We tend to look at how we can hold on to what we’ve got, rather than looking at how we can adapt, how we can pivot, how we can diversify. Climate change is happening – rather than trying to hold back the tide, how do you adapt?
“For example, livestock farmers aren’t necessarily horticulturalists, however there might be a corner of their land where they can try something different so it means that they don’t have all their eggs in one basket when it comes to economic shocks.”
Sheldon said some Māori landowners were without resources and could do with support.
“It’s actually about finding out what are the barriers, who owns the land, can they make decisions on it, what grows there, what would they like to grow there and what are the tools that they need to move forward?
“And then what we do is connect. One of the big things for agribusiness is connecting with the Crown and research institutes. That has been really helpful in connecting the Crown with the grass roots because they don’t always know who the farmers are, what’s available, or what our micro climates are in Whanganui,” Sheldon said.
“It’s about singing the praises of Whanganui, all the good things we have, all the wonderful land, water, people and how we can connect that all together and grow our thriving businesses.”
Guest speakers will include Judge Layne Harvey from Te Kooti Whenua Māori, the Māori Land Court, Whanganui and Partners, the Ministry for Primary Industries and Te Tumu Paeroa.
Iwi and innovators who have navigated the challenges and opportunities in infrastructure, procurement, diversification and acquisition will also give their insights, including Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa and Atihau-Whanganui Incorporation.
Registrations via the Te Manu Atatū website are essential.
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