Food solutions to rural poverty

By jay

An iwi from South Taranaki is making its own opportunities, stimulating food-related entrepreneurship through a pilot project to create new jobs as an alternative to dairying and extractive industries in the region.

Ngaa Rauru Kiitahi is an iwi based in Waverley, South Taranaki. Their rohe (area) stretches between the Whanganui River to the Patea River.

This area is also a major focus for extractive industries including seabed mining, which the iwi opposes. “Our area here is under immense pressure from the dairy industry and the extractive industries – oil, gas and iron sand mining.  We believe it’s time to take a more proactive role in caring for our environment and reducing the reliance on these invasive industries.  To many of our people, the concept of mining our seabed is frankly insane.” says Kaiwhakahaere (General Manager) Anne-Marie Broughton.

She says she wants to see an alternative for rural New Zealand which doesn’t involve intensive dairying and the decline of water quality and quantity.  “Being a rural area, we’re really struggling in terms of employment. So we’ve got to find ways of creating jobs and businesses that fit with our values as Māori that are ecologically and economically sustainable. We’re looking at projects that sit at the micro business level – anything that can help to support family income through to scaled-up business opportunities.”

At the beginning of the year the iwi commenced a Social Ecological Entrepreneur pilot project to explore opportunities. Working with renowned Ecological Economist Dr Marjan van den Belt of Massey University, they are developing an ecosystem services approach to planning and design to help guide decisions about the future of iwi enterprise.  This approach challenges the traditional concepts of doing business and return on investment (ROI) and incorporates the Ngaa Rauru Kiitahi world view.

Starting in January, the project is now well underway with about 15 iwi members involved. As a part of the project, the iwi has highlighted the area of food business and is developing small initiatives to stimulate growth in this area. “Given the resources that we have in the area – really good quality land, a temperate climate, water and availability of a workforce – we’re focusing on food as a starting point.”

Currently the pilot team is undertaking a product development challenge.  “Kai Kakariki” is about using watercress, puha or poroporo as a base ingredient and creating something new.  It’s yielding some pretty original ideas including a watercress kimchi which is in the testing pipeline.

Given their focus on food, Nga Rauru will be sending a group to the Good Food Forum on the 25th of May. They are planning to do a food tour around Auckland on Sunday 24th to investigate food trends and businesses in the area and scour the markets for a better understanding of the business landscape in Auckland.

The iwi also has a project underway to create a Ngaa Rauru education curriculum to capture Ngaa Rauru history, skills and knowledge.  They also operate a native plant nursery and landcare business called Kiitahi which supplies around 40,000 eco-sourced plants a year to the Taranaki Regional Council for their riparian management programme.