Āpirana Ngata’s influence
Āpirana Ngata played a vital role in the 20th century in developing a national scheme that amalgamated Māori land and provided funding to farm it. His success was largely due to his experience of farming on the East Coast amongst his Ngāti Porou people, as well as his knowledge of European law.
Ngāti Porou sheep farming
From around 1900, Āpirana Ngata became deeply interested in sheep farming on the East Coast, as he took over Ahikōuka station and managed three other stations. Ngāti Porou leaders like Rāpata Wahawaha and Mōkena Kōhere had successfully farmed sheep on open country in the late 19th century, but it became apparent that for sheep farming to be successful a more structured approach would be needed.
At around that time a Union of Ngati Porou Farmers was founded. Ngata capitalised on this, educating Ngāti Porou about contemporary farming methods, including fencing, stock rotation and sowing grass. Ngata’s friend Samuel Williams, founder of Te Aute College, provided finance for Ngāti Porou farmers. Sheep farming underwent a transformation in the Waiapu valley, with Ngata leading the way. Sheep numbers increased from 52,786 in 1900 to 132,356 in 1909 and an estimated 500,000 in 1927.
Āpirana Ngata instigated the Māori Farmer of the Year awards in 1932. The winner of the awards received the Ahuwhenua Trophy, presented in 1932 by the governor-general, Lord Bledisloe. Over time the difficulty in judging both dairying and sheep farming became clear, and in 1954 Lord Bledisloe presented an additional trophy for sheep farming. Māori women won trophies for sheep farming in 1952 and dairy farming in 1954.
Ngāti Porou dairying
In 1923 Ngata began looking for land suitable for dairy farming on the East Coast. Ngāti Porou farmers took some convincing, as they had been sheep farmers for over 30 years. Money was borrowed from the Native Trustee and used to build a dairy factory and milking sheds, buy cows, and launch the Ngāti Porou Dairy Company. The Ruatōria factory produced around 60 tonnes of butter in 1925/26 and almost 460 tonnes in 1931/32. However it did not thrive after the Second World War and closed in 1954.
Large-scale farming is carried out by a number of big Māori incorporations.
Parininihi Ki Waitōtara Incorporation, based in Taranaki, has 13 dairy farms and milks 8,000 cows on 2,500 hectares of productive farmland. In 2008 the incorporation had a $50 million farming interest in Taranaki, and collected rents from 20,000 hectares of perpetual lease land.
The Ātihau-Whanganui Incorporation was formed in 1970 to manage 40,873 hectares of land. In the early 2000s it managed 10 stations and a dairy farm on behalf of its 7,072 shareholders. Pah Hill, a 1,900-hectare sheep and beef farm, supported 20,800 stock units.
In the early 2000s Wairarapa Moana Incorporation owned assets of almost $90 million, a large part being forestry and farming operations. It managed 4,200 hectares of farmland, comprising 12 dairy units and 1,325 hectares in sheep and beef. The dairy farms employed sharemilkers to milk around 7,200 cows, producing over 2.3 million kilograms of milk solids annually.
The Puketapu 3A Trust owns the 3,877-hectare Moerangi station, 2,150 hectares of which are effective farming land. In 2008 Moerangi carried 13,200 sheep, about 1,200 cattle, nearly 2,000 deer and 500 goats.