A new action plan for Māori agribusiness has been released by the government with the aim of supporting the continued growth of Māori food and fibre sector.
Called Rautaki mo te Taurikura – Embracing Change for Prosperity, the plan is the result of 18 months of collaboration between the government and the Māori Primary Sector Forum.
About a third of all Māori businesses are part of the primary sector, Associate Agriculture Minister Meka Whaitiri said at the launch of the plan at Fieldays.
New Zealand’s food and fibre exports are experiencing record highs, up 39% since 2017. Total exports by Māori businesses have grown from $630 million in 2017 to $872m in 2021, with the majority from the food and fibre sector.
“It is estimated that Māori own $13 billion in primary sector assets. Māori enterprise accounts for 40% of forestry, 30% of all beef and lamb production and Māori horticulture has grown by an impressive 300% in the last 12 years,” Whaitiri said.
Rautaki mo te Taurikura builds on investments from Budget 2022, including $34m to put extra Māori agribusiness advisors in the regions, and $35m to support Māori-led innovation and mātauranga-based approaches to reducing on-farm emissions, Whaitiri said.
“This includes the use of workshops, targeted groups, field days and other on-farm activities to share the most up-to-date information on low emissions practices.
“We’ve also invested in projects to help landowners improve their productivity, create training opportunities and jobs, and develop innovative practices and products to grow Māori exports.”
Māori contribute a significant amount to NZ’s economy and there is an emerging class among Māori agribusiness known for their environmental leadership, social responsibility, innovation and productivity, Whaitiri said.
Māori landowners face challenges around managing and developing land including complex land ownership and difficulties in accessing capital, and are more at risk from adverse weather events.
“Despite these challenges, Māori agribusiness are leaders in the primary sector time after time,” Whaitiri said.
As well as the new action plan, the government announced it will co-invest in a $723,200 project led by Māori farming company Ātihau-Whanganui Incorporation, which operates 42,000ha of whānau farms in the Manawatū-Whanganui region.
“The project will involve an innovative trial embedding mātauranga Māori into farming practices, delivering measurable environmental benefits around improving soil quality and cleaning up waterways,” Whaitiri said.
“Investing in projects like this will ensure our Māori agribusinesses can lift productivity across their land, by providing up-to-date advice to adjust their practices and innovate, so that growth in exports can continue and provide jobs across the sector,” Whaitiri said.
The Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures Fund) will contribute $433,920 to the project.
The event also marked the first time that Māori agricultural excellence has been recognised at Fieldays, with all three Ahuwhenua Trophies on display.
“Celebrating Māori farming excellence is not just about recognising successful Māori landowners,” Whaitiri said. “It’s about celebrating those who are forging new pathways and showing what success looks like in the sector while retaining our unique identity as Māori.”
MPI director-general Ray Smith said the plan will allow for a better partnership between government and Māori agribusiness.
It will also accelerate investment. Only a small percentage of government funding from initiatives such as the SFF Futures Fund goes to Māori agribusiness.
“We can do so much better,” Smith said.
The plan will also allow for the better building of services tailored for Māori communities.
“We are not starting from nowhere, but we do realise that we have some distance to go and we have an investment from government that will really help us,” Smith said.
Ngā Pouwhiro Taimatua (Māori Primary Sector Forum) chair Traci Houpapa said the plan is not just another roadmap. It is designed to be nimble and flexible to be able to work in this next stage of the covid-19 environment.
“This plan provides us with the architecture and the framework to make change happen on our land while also participating in the policy framework and levers, and will ensure and enable us to do better by it.”
The Rautaki mo te Taurikura plan will be reviewed in 2024.