National | Ahuwhenua Trophy

Wi Pere wants Ahuwhenua win to inspire Tai Rāwhiti businesses to up their game

Wi Pere Trust has gone from success to success, having won the supreme Māori agri/horticulture award, the Ahuwhenua Trophy, for its horticultural enterprise and more.

The trust was also named in this year’s NBR List of top and rising wealth creators – the first time a Māori trust has been included alongside the nation’s wealthiest families and individuals, who are collectively estimated as being worth $72 billion.

Ironically, the trust status was imposed on Wiremu Pere because of mounting debt.

Now, it is considered one of the most successful family estates in Aotearoa and is managed by five descendants of Wi Pere.

Trust chair Alan Haronga says the trophy win was unexpected given the competition of the other two finalists, Ngāi Tukairangi Trust and MIL – Whiritoa Orchards, plus battling with severe weather events.

Happy under the radar

“All competitors, they had a bundle of nerves,” Haronga says. “We were relieved when the decision was announced and obviously delighted when it was us. We knew the result would be close.”

A past winner of the 2022 Ahuwhenua beef and sheep trophy, and having two past winners come from Te Tai Rāwhiti region inspired Wi Pere Trust, and Haronga hopes this year’s win will encourage others in the region to lift their game.

Amid challenges and the rebuild of the primary sector, priorities for the trust now are retaining staff, moving stock to higher ground, changing to its low-carbon business plan and cleaning up the taiao.

As for making the wealthiest list, Haronga says, “We were mentioned as being under the radar and that is how we prefer to be.

“I think winning Ahuwhenua last year moved us out of the shadows and our modest balance sheet of $165 million must have met their criteria, so I guess that’s why we ended up being there.”

Public Interest Journalism