The Ahuwhenua Trophy is awarded in an annual contest for the Māori Farmer-of-the-Year and was first held in 1932. The competition was initially between small-scale family farms and continued government modernisation strategies for Māori farmers, their families and their tribal land. Judged on social as well as management and productivity criteria, farmers often struggled in the face of severe challenges that included communal debt for those tribes whose members actually won and then hosted the increasingly extravagant award ceremony. This first phase of the contest struggled for entrants in the 1970s and 80s, and ended in 1990.

Re-emerging in 2003, the event is now dominated by large-scale corporate agribusinesses that are integral to the ‘Māori economy’, itself interpreted as the ‘sleeping giant’ of the wider New Zealand economy. This paper explores the history of Māori farming through the Ahuwhenua awards, and explains why the first phase went into abeyance by offering brief insights into the context of four capitals: economic, environmental, social and cultural. The paper also offers thoughts on the current renaissance of the Māori farming sector and identifies future challenges to Māori environmental planning and sustainable development in the global economy.

Final PDF