Truffles from The Truffledore, Tasmania. Photo / James O'Rourke / NZME / File
It's already ubiquitous as Kiwifruit country but a hapū hunt to make whenua Māori profitable in the Bay of Plenty, looks set to put the elusive but highly valuable truffle on the region's menus.
The government is granting $5 million of its Regional Strategic Partnership Fund to four horticultural businesses in the Bay of Plenty, to develop underutilised whenua Māori.
The mixture of grants and loans will predominantly go into the development of new kiwifruit orchards but Regional Development Minister Kiritapu Allan says there has also been $1.11m set aside to plant 13 hectares of truffle trees in the region.
“Horticulture offers Māori the opportunity to leverage one of their key assets, their whenua, to generate an economic return for the benefit of their communities and these investments work hand-in-hand with the priorities of the fund," Allan said.
“Across New Zealand, Māori own approximately 400,000 hectares of land in farms engaged in primary production; less than 1 per cent of this land is in horticulture."
The grant is going to Te Moana a Toi Truffles Collective, made up of seven Māori landowners in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.
Highly profitable crop
"Investing into these kinds of enterprises will be a promising pathway to creating sustainable regional growth in Aotearoa,” Allan says.
Oaks, hazels, and pine that typically make up truffle trees might be outside the government's natives focus, but at $2-3 per gram, truffles present a highly profitable, sustainable crop for a small footprint.
“The Bay of Plenty has a credible history of producing high-value horticulture," Allan says.
"These investments will see the region continue to grow in capability and build strong relationships with technical partners to thrive in this sector,” Allan said.
Of the more traditional investments, Paengaroa North A1 Section 2 has been approved a loan of up to $1.16 million and Waihau Bay Horticulture has secured a loan of up to $2.12 million to develop kiwifruit orchards.
Ngāi Tamarāwaho has been granted up to $726,000 to develop a purpose-built contracting yard that will provide nursery services to support ecological restoration, planting and eco-sourcing seedlings on Māori freehold land.