Developing Māori leaders in an emerging market on their own whenua

New Zealand Manuka Group is a medium-sized Whakatāne-based primary industry business operating in partnership with Māori landowners in the Bay of Plenty to produce manuka oil straight from manuka trees being grown on Māori owned land.

Published: Wednesday, 21 August 2019 | Rāapa, 21 Hereturikōkā, 2019

Nine cadets are being developed and trained in how to grow and harvest manuka oil through the New Zealand Manuka Group cadetship programme.

Each cadet is a trustee of the Māori land being utilised to grow the manuka trees that will be processed to produce the valuable manuka oil which is sold all over the world.

"We wanted to make sure cadets came from local whānau," said Jerome Brosnahan, Chief Operation
Officer NZMG.

The Bay of Plenty region has the second highest unemployment rate in New Zealand at 7.6% due to a 2.9% increase from the previous year (HLFS, Mar 2017).

The NZMG cadetship programme provides an employment opportunity but cadets are receiving much more.

NZMG removed some barriers being faced by cadets that included providing transport to work and supplying costly needed equipment.

Cadets receive mentoring support and are studying towards an apiculture or horticulture NZQA qualification.

Cadets are being exposed to the science inputs of the business and visiting other sites to gain a wider understanding of how their part fits within the bigger picture.

"We are investing in our cadets to achieve long-term outcomes," explains Dona Niethammer, HR Manager NZMG.
"If, at the end of the cadetship programme permanent employment isn't possible, cadets will leave with highly desired skills transferable to other primary industry roles."

School wasn't for me

Steven Hakopa (Ngāti Awa) is 20 years old and loves working on the land that his iwi owns.

“School wasn’t for me,” admits Steven. “I didn’t last long at school and I ended up working in the forest when I was 16 because in Te Teko there really wasn’t anything else to do.

"I did a Tane Mahuta course and then started working in the forest and I was there for four years. "But in the forest there wasn’t much love there. I didn’t want to get up in the morning, so I decided it was time to move.

“My uncle Miro Araroa, is a Plantation Supervisor at the NZMG Te Teko plantation and is dad’s cousin. He told dad about the cadetship programme and dad told me and I said yip straight away but it took about a month before I started."

Steven’s Auditor is Iwi, from the Coast, and he has been teaching Steven about plantation management and irrigation. Steven has already started on achieving NZQA Units in plantation management and irrigation and he is keen on learning more.

“It's so different to school. The people here are interested in me learning and growing while I’m working."

Steven admits he likes being outside and being hands on. The cadetship programme is helping Steven learn in
an environment that he is most comfortable in.

"I'm learning so much, about plantation management and irrigation. I'm learning about what is needed to grow healthy manuka trees."

Daily support from experienced mentors while working alongside whānau is a formula that seems to be working
for Steven.

“I love working on the land that my iwi owns and working with my aunties and uncles and cousins.”

For Steven, having whānau around him is the best thing. He laughed at the thought of never being able to ‘pull a
sicky’ because they would know and make sure he was at work.

“I want to get up. I’ve only been here a month but I can see me doing this every day.”

At his whānau marae (Te Mapou Marae, Te Teko) Steven sees himself as a rangatahi. Someone young still needing guidance and support from the older generations. At work, he has his aunties and uncles around him guiding him in much the same way.

“I am so thankful for the opportunity. I love working with my whānau. I want to get up now. I want to keep learning. I want to succeed for me and my baby.”

For someone so young Steven has experienced a lot already in life. His whānau are supporting him and the NZMG cadetship programme is providing opportunities for him to grow and learn valuable skills.

"The biggest difference is working on my land with my whānau. The people are so nice here. I love it," says Steven.