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December 2004, Volume 15, Number 11

Growing Asset

Growing kumara commercially has been a learning exercise for a group of Maori landowners near Wairoa...

“We’ve tripped up a couple of times,” says Wairoa Waikaremoana Maori Trust Board chief executive Rangi Manuel (pictured). “We’ve had to pick ourselves up, wipe our noses and get on with it again.”

Rangi says that every step of the process has involved skill development. “You even need to harvest them as quickly as you can so they are out of the ground before a certain time.

“It is not just a matter of planting them; you have to take care right from the start.”

Those involved are hoping that their experiences will help eliminate diseases in the crop this year and increase their acreage.

With support and advice from the Community Employment Group, the growers have secured a market with a packaging, marketing and distribution organisation in Dargaville.

“Whatever kumara we grow they take the entire crop. They are developing all sorts of by-products.”

CEG fieldworker George Rarere helped the group make linkages with others in the industry, and assisted with strategic planning.

Initially the group investigated the Japanese market.

Kumara is used in Japan for a range of products, including gin. However, the return being offered for the kumara did not make exporting worthwhile.

“If the Japanese came back to us we’d look further at it. But the price has to be right.

“We get protective in New Zealand about kumara, but the reality is that countries such as Japan have been growing it for thousands of years.

“The potential for unused land in this area is quite enormous. What we have been able to learn will be made available to other groups wanting to get involved in kumara. The viability still needs to be proven, but we are confident it has the potential to give family groups economic independence by using their land as an asset.”

George says the project has provided “new and exciting opportunities for a group of Maori familes with small parcels of unused land in the Wairoa district.

“After intense research and trials over the past year or so, these families are now confident that in the long term their initiative will provide a cashflow which in turn will lead to local jobs and self sufficiency and self sustainability from their land blocks.”

Other stories about Maori Land Development:
Bearing Fruit in Te Kaha - Paul O’Brien (April 2004)
Finding Value in Former Weed - Ira Kohere (January 2004)
Match-Making - Te Runanga O Turanganui a Kiwa (September 2003)
Planning Proves Critical - Hokonui Runanga Incorporated (August 2003)
Adventuring Opportunities - Matakaoa Charitable Work Trust (May 2003)
Budding Business - Kaiapoi Community Care and Employment Trust (April 2003)
Trials Underway - Te Runanga o Turanganui a Kiwi (October 2001)
Other stories about Horticulture:
Subtropical Pilot - Ahipara Banana Plantation (July 2004)
New Challenges Ahead - Waiora Trust (May 2004)
Bearing Fruit in Te Kaha - Paul O’Brien (April 2004)
Trials 'Looking Positive' - Dunedin Rural Development (February 2004)
Gaining Confidence - Timaru Mental Health Support Trust (January 2004)
Sharing Proves Valuable - Coastwide Growers Association (May 2003)
Pooling Resources - Peter O'Brien (March 2003)
CONTACT
Rangi Manuel
Wairoa Waikaremoana Maori Trust Board
P O Box 162
Wairoa
Phone (06) 838 8262 or
027 245 6331
Fax (06) 838 7851
email: wwmtb@xtra.co.nz

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