Māori Farming Facts

A review of the Māori Commercial Asset Base for Te Puni Kōkiri in November 2003 showed there were 436 Māori authorities with substantial businesses.

Farming an effective area of 720,000 hectares worth an estimated $7.5 billion, Māori are the largest natural grouping of pastoral farmers in New Zealand.

Given the collective nature of their land holdings and the number of shareholders they support there's also a strong case for saying they're the most sustainable farmers in New Zealand.

Behind Landcorp Māori farmers are probably MWNZ's biggest levy payers.

On the sheep & beef front Atihau-Whanganui – winner of the 2007 Sheep & Beef Award is a huge player – the incorporation farms an area the size of lake Taupo – over 29,400 hectares with over 206,000 stock units.

Māori dairy farmers own an estimated 100 million shares in Fonterra with some of the major players in the sector being large incorporations like the 2006 Dairy Competition winner PKW Farms Ltd which has an estimated $50million farming interest in Taranaki – including 14 dairy farms operated under 50/50 sharemilking contracts.

Another big player is Wairarapa Moana which owns 12 dairy units, milking a combined total of about 7200 cows, producing 2.3million kg of milk solids annually.

Māori farming is inherently different from Pakeha farming for a number of historic, political and cultural reasons.

  • Historic land losses and confiscations
  • Legislative impediments
  • In many cases Māori have had to wait for leases to expire and then buy their own land back so they can get on with the business of farming it. This is still going on.
  • Often the land handed back was/is in very poor condition e.g. Hauhungaroa
  • Huge debt was often incurred in buying back land
  • Major development work to be done – often with insufficient capital to do it quickly.
  • The customary nature of the land
  • The large and increasing number of shareholders each incorporation has to support e.g. last year's winner had almost 8000 shareholders
  • The large areas farmed means the sector has to be managed and governed in a more corporate fashion.

In the past 15-20 years there have been major changes in the sector driven by:

  • New more experienced leadership coming into Trusts & Incorporations
  • Better Governance & Manangement
  • Better Governance & management has lead to a much more positive and proactive response from banks – particularly the BNZ and Rabobank
  • Recovery of tribal lands, which have come out of lease agreements and have been bought back e.g. last year's winner Atihau-Whanganui
  • Debt recovery
  • The purchase of "Pakeha" land to provide greater security of investment
  • Diversification strategies being implemented by progressive management which are allowing Incorporations to get better returns on capital – this has provided more capital to reinvest on farms e.g. PKW.
  • A much greater sense of pride – driven especially by the Awards

The future is likely to see:

  • A continuing emphasis on developing governance & management
  • More amalgamations between smaller Trusts & Incorporations
  • More diversification strategies especially in the energy sectory, wine, horticulture, forestry, and property.
  • Some overseas investment and partnerships – particularly instigated by the bigger Trusts & Incorporations.
  • An interesting and continuing debate on how to return a dividend to an ever-increasing number of shareholders.