Maori growers hope to grow their multi-million dollar share in the kiwifruit industry.
Yesterday at the launch of the Maori Kiwifruit Growers Forum chairman Tiaki Hunia said Maori growers aimed to lift their current eight per cent share of Zespri production up to 20 per cent.
He also shared a vision with the gathering at Te Hua Whenua Orchard in Welcome Bay that Maori would work and manage their own land and marketing.
An immediate focus for the forum had been placed on training, education, upskilling and development. It would also be identifying data differences between Maori owned and operated orchards and leased land alongside Zespri.
''We know a large portion of Maori land is leased out in joint ventures and over time those enterprises will come back to the landowners, so we are gearing up to identify who they are, how many and what we can do to support them so they are ready to run their businesses when their time comes.''
The forum was created to advocate for the interests of Maori growers in the sector and was a partnership between Maori kiwifruit growers, Te Puni Kōkiri and Zespri.
Te Puni Kōkiri had allocated $140,000 in funding for operation costs for two years.
Minister for Maori Development, Hon Te Ururoa Flavell told the crowd Maori had the desire to be on the decision-making table at Zespri.
Zespri chief executive Lain Jager said Maori could identify a suitably skilled business person but they would have to be elected on their merits.
''Any time is a good time but it's about Maori identifying a suitably skilled business person that would be elected on their merits.
''But Maori have a significant footprint in the New Zealand kiwifruit industry and are more than capable of aligning groups of people to support a candidate.''
The forum was about supporting the development of a strong and cohesive ecosystem for Māori growers in the New Zealand kiwifruit industry, he said.
''Maori have recognised the need for this forum, where specific skills and information sharing will help grow the success of their kiwifruit investment, and we are proud to support them," said Mr Jager.
Chief executive of New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc said it was looking forward to working closely with the Maori Kiwifruit Growers Forum in the future ''to support this important part of our industry''.
About the Maori Kiwifruit Growers Forum Incorporated
The Maori Kiwifruit Growers Forum Incorporated has been created to exercise leadership across the industry and advocate on behalf of Maori kiwifruit growers, to improve information dissemination, and to ultimately assist and help improve net returns for Maori growers.
The forum is governed by 11 elected members who represent the Maori communities involved in the kiwifruit industry and is chaired by Tiaki Hunia.
The Māori Growers Forum is supported by Te Puni Kōkiri and Zespri.