Māori ag-businesses leading the way in innovation and sustainability

Kaitiakitanga is a founding principle of te ao Māori and is the driving force for many Māori organisations that are innovating and championing a more sustainable approach to business.

However, Bay of Connections Leadership Group member, Tina Ngatai, says these principles can be adopted by any organisation that wants to leave a cleaner, greener legacy.

Onuku Māori Lands Trust, of which Tina is a trustee, is just one example of a Māori agriculture business making simple changes to reduce its carbon footprint.

A 2022 finalist and former winner of the coveted Ahuwhenua Trophy, Onuku Māori Lands Trust has converted a portion of its dairy farm to ovine (sheep milk) in an effort to lower emissions.

Entering its third season, the conversion has already seen a third of its nitrates reduced and the farm halve its water use.

The change has also allowed the Trust to triple its employment, creating more opportunities for whānau in the region.

Tina says these changes are not just about the bottom line, but about improving all aspects of business.

“Onuku has been operating for more than 40 years and for at least 15 of those years, there has been a conversation within the agriculture sector about how to better look after the environment.

“That aspiration goes even deeper for Māori because the whenua is so closely connected to us through our tipuna.

“For us, we want to leave a legacy that’s better than what we received. That can only be achieved if we are devoted to making the small changes that will have a big impact.”

Onuku Māori Lands Trust has also converted 800ha of land to riparian reserves and corridors and is currently investigating how to move from electricity to solar panels and other energy sources to reduce reliance on the national grid.

“The future is in technology as that will be what supports us to become a carbon neutral place.

“There is no one solution, it’s about starting those conversations and having a focus on the circular economy; how we can make everything join up to benefit everyone.”

But it’s not just agricultural businesses that can make sustainable changes, Tina says.

“There is huge opportunity in the building industry to adopt more sustainable materials to reduce waste. Even in sectors like health, where there is so much single-use material, there are opportunities to reduce waste.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got nowhere else to go, so it is in all our best interest to make the wider Bay of Plenty a sustainable, thriving place to live and work.”