Indigenous | Ahuwhenua Awards

Aotearoa’s top Māori dairy farm and young Māori farmer celebrated at Ahuwhenua awards

Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer 2024, Ben Purua (centre) . Photo /

Aotearoa’s top Māori dairy farm and young Māori farmer have been celebrated at the Ahuwhenua awards in Hamilton on Friday night.

Kīngi Tūheitia, Prime Minister Christopher Christopher Luxon and Māori Development Minister Tama Potaka were among 850 guests at the Globox Arena in Claudelands, where Wairarapa Moana ki Pouākani Incorporation (WMI) was awarded the Ahuwhenua Trophy for excellence in Māori farming while South Waikato farm manager Ben Purua (Tainui) received the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer award.

A major shareholder in Māori dairy company Miraka, Wairarapa Moana ki Pouākani Incorporation produces five million milksolids from its 12,000 cow herd and is the largest supplier to milk processor Miraka.

Ahuwhenua Trophy management committee chair Nukuhia Hadfield (Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Te Rangi) described it as a “role model” in March, following a field day at its farm near Mangakino in Waikato.

“WMI is a very large operation and is playing a significant role in the economy of Aotearoa. As a major shareholder in Miraka, WMI is a role model for the concept of sustainability and one that all farmers in the country should look at.”

Wairarapa Moana ki Pouākani Incorporation was a finalist alongside Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board’s dairy farm near Ōpōtiki.

A previous finalist for the Young Māori Farmer award, Purua is the farm manager at Waimakariri Lands Ltd, which runs 540 cows near Tirau in Waikato.

Farming has been transformative for the 29-year-old, who experienced considerable adversity in his upbringing in Pukekohe, including exposure to gang life, substance abuse and domestic violence, which eventually led to time in Waikeria Prison.

It is at Waikeria working on the prison farms, however, that his passion for farming was ignited, ultimately culminating in this award.

“I wasn’t the best, I wasn’t the best growing up, but I hope I make you all proud now,” Purua said Friday evening, holding back tears, a Rural News report said.

“Thank you for pushing me and for believing in me when I did not believe in myself.”

Purua was a finalist with Hannah Speakman (Ngāti Kahungunu) and Shayden Gardiner (Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngā Rauru, Ngāti Rangi).

“Me reaching this award encourages any young Māori - no matter your background, where you come from, whatever you’ve been through - anything is possible if you put heart into it and get your mindset right.”