Tuaropaki Trust was amalgamated from multipleowned lands that can be traced to the descendants of seven Mokai hapū: Ngāti Parekaawa, Ngāti Te Kohera, Ngāti Wairangi, Ngāti Whaita, Ngāti Moekino, Ngāti Haa and Ngāti Tarakaiahi. These hapū have tribal affiliations to Ngāti Tuwharetoa and Ngāti Raukawa. It is an Ahu Whenua trust acting under the provisions of Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993. Essentially, the Trust order requires Tuaropaki trustees to administer the Tuaropaki E lands for the benefit of the owners. This land block is located 30kms north west of Taupō.
In 1952 a court order was sought and gained from the Māori Land Court to amalgamate the various land titles for farm development. In the mid-1960s a comprehensive development programme commenced which was called the Tuaropaki Land Development Scheme. The Rotorua office of the Department of Māori Affairs provided loan finance to develop the scheme which was managed under Part XXIV of the Māori Affairs Act 1953. In 1978 the Department of Māori Affairs had its loan repaid in full and in 1979 the Minister of Māori Affairs, Ben Couch, returned the land to the owners. By this time, a team of trustees had been appointed to administer Tuaropaki Station which covers 2,708 hectares of land. Initially, farming operations included cattle and sheep, however, over the years the trust gradually introduced other stock as a means of providing on-farm diversification.
Since then, a geothermal power (electricity) station called Mokai 1, followed by two other business entities - Gourmet Mokai and Tuaropaki Communications Ltd (TCL) have been established. Diversifying off-farm through TCL was a courageous move by the Board especially in light of Telecom NZ's giant market share. The core mission statement of the Trust is "to provide sustainable wealth and benefits for the owners and their whānau". The principal operating value is "to create and implement good standards of performance and ethics that gain the respect of our stakeholders and the community at large" according to the Chairman of the Trust, Tumanako Wereta. He comments further, "it is not simply about making a profit but rather, how profit is equitably distributed".
The Trust's core business is livestock farming comprising sheep, cattle, beef, deer and dairy. Land that is not suitable for pastoral farming is set aside for forestry or conservation areas. The Trust also has business interests in glasshouse tomatoes and capsicums for export, electricity supply, and satellite and wireless communications.
The "jewel in the crown" says Tumanako is the geothermal steam-field located directly beneath the farm property. After numerous studies and specialists' reports, a 55 MWe station was built and commissioned in 2000. Electricity is supplied to consumers via the national grid. A second 40 MWe station called Mokai II was commissioned in June this year which brings the total output of electricity to 90-100 MWe – sufficient to light up around 100,000, homes.
There are currently five trustees and two associate trustees on the Board. While the Trust has no formal board review process, trustees expand their skill base by attending the five day director training courses run by the New Zealand Institute of Directors (IoD). Recently two Trustees have attended a course run by the IoD in Auckland. This means that three Trustees have attended this course in the past two years. Other trustees will also be encouraged to attend this important course.
Although the Trust Order has no provision for the inclusion of independent Trustees (appointed from outside the ownership group) at this stage, there is strong sentiment within the present Board to consider this matter seriously. If accepted, such a move will allow an independent perspective to be brought to the boardroom thus adding value to the Board's decision-making process.
In addressing the complex issue of succession, an adaptation of the Wakatu Incorporation model has been used, whereby applications are sought from the owners or their whānau to apply for a position as an "associate". After the closing date, applicants are properly screened, short-listed and subsequently interviewed or advised on how they have fared. The first associate was appointed to Tuaropaki in 2002 and a further two applicants were appointed in 2003. The owners, at an Annual General Meeting, following the initial appointment, make final confirmation. The final step is to seek court confirmation to appoint associates as full or responsible trustees. The Trustees are very pleased at the calibre and youthfulness of the associates.
When critical governance issues arise, the Trustees' first point of reference is the Trust Order or Trust Deed. It provides a legal framework outlining the objects and rules that deal with compliance matters within the law of trusts and Māori land. Tumanako also points out that the application of common sense is just as important.
In the absence of a specific trustee induction programme, the Board approved a rolling training fund two years ago to assist trustees undertake professional development either in New Zealand or Australia.
The Chairman, Tumanako Wereta, believes conflicts of interest are always going to be an issue in Māori organisations. In respect of Tuaropaki it is the owners who are often vocal in their comments regarding conflicts of interest. "Nepotism is sometimes replaced by whānaungatanga" he said,"especially if it is used to justify one's position in the scheme of things". Tuaropaki communicates with its owners through a newsletter that is sent out every three months, two wānanga each year and annual general meetings.
The Trust has developed its own strategic planning format to enable the Board to regularly monitor progress against objectives. It is simple to follow and consists of only two pages, which is regularly attached to the board's monthly minutes.
The plan and report includes:
A specific five-year business plan for the farming operations has been prepared and implemented by an independent advisor and farm manager. The farm is in great condition and significant improvements are anticipated in the short-term. The power company has a rolling 10-year plan.
Each business unit operates independently and reports are submitted to the Board on a monthly basis and monitored against the business plans. Research and development projects such as communications and pikopiko cultivation play an important part in the Trust's future direction.
Currently the Trust's accountant takes care of all financial reporting requirements and provides Tuaropaki with project management and secretarialservices. Whenever a new project is proposed the Board, through its project manager, conducts a very thorough investigation and due diligence process before a determination is made either approving or declining the project.
It is envisaged that as more trustees attend the IoD courses, a formal auditing process of trustee performance will be developed. Once the Boardis comfortable with a more vigorous governance approach, the auditing will take place.
Identifying, establishing and keeping a good relationship with key stakeholders is a priority that is embedded in the operating values of the Board of Trustees.
Tuaropaki Station employs six full-time employees for the farm operations, including the farm manager who is responsible for implementing the five-year business plan. The business plan sets the targets and lays out the operational strategies of the farm. The dairy unit is run by a sharemilker who has 1000 dairy cows on the property.
In line with its strategy to provide employment and further utilise the geothermal resource under its land, Tuaropaki entered into a joint venture glasshouse horticulture project in December 2002. Tuaropaki has 25% ownership in an entity named Gourmet Mokai. Gourmet Paprika Ltd has a 50% share andHauhungaroa Partnership (Ngāti Parekawa) has a 25% shareholding in Gourmet Mokai. Gourmet Mokai and Hauhungaroa Partnership are discussed in further detail in the following chapters.
The joint venture was a fast track project with heads of agreement signed in December 2002 and construction commencing in February 2003. Formal agreements were concluded in August 2003. In addition to its role as a shareholder, Tuaropaki receives an annual rent on the land occupied by Gourmet Mokai and is to receive funds for the geothermal energy provided to the glasshouse.
Last modified: 15/06/2011
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