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Property Express: Meeting the Challenges of ‘Working Alongside Iwi’

April 2022

Wayne Brooks is Iwi Liaison Manager for PGG Wrightson Real Estate, also serving as the company’s Lower North Island Sales Manager.

For Wayne, who traces his whakapapa to Ngāti Kahungunu and Whakatōhea, the importance of his role within the company is best summarised by a traditional proverb: ‘Te toto o te tangata, he kai; te oranga o te tangata, he whenua,’ which translates as ‘While food provides the blood in our veins, our health is drawn from the land.’

“Family ownership and affiliation to the land over many generations are among the strongest drivers for anyone in agriculture. That kaupapa, those values, are central for Māori, even more profoundly than they are elsewhere,” he says.

Māori own $13 billion in primary sector assets, including 30 percent of all beef and lamb production. According to a report published by leading economic research and analysis agency BERL in 2020, Māori agriculture grew 300 percent in the preceding 12 years.

“That amounts to a massive opportunity. With tens of thousands of hectares in iwi ownership, the challenge lies in improving performance on farm. There is a huge amount of under-utilised iwi land throughout the country. Ensuring that land provides better returns for its owners, without compromising their kaitiakitanga, or long-term stewardship, is the essence of this challenge and opportunity,” says Wayne.

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He speaks from personal experience, via his own ties to Māori land in Wairoa and Opotiki, property held in multiple ownerships, with his stake sitting alongside thousands of others. Wayne’s professional background and experience mean he is often called on to serve a broad range of committee and governance functions.

“Governance is the key to success for iwi organisations. Many have had challenges bringing appropriate governance expertise to the board table. Those that are doing well are real powerhouses. For others, it is a work in progress that can be a struggle,” he says.

Māori agribusinesses include iwi entities, Māori trusts, organisations and companies with interests in the primary sector, natural products, and related agri-food businesses. That includes large corporate performers like Tainui and Ngāi Tahu that each have agricultural holdings worth hundreds of millions of dollars, through to much smaller whanau incorporations, trusts, or entities comprising a few families. While many of these organisations are involved in more traditional farming industries, others are at the cutting edge, leading innovation in the likes of sheep milking and manuka.

“From a real estate perspective, you have to understand an iwi will almost never sell land, generally opting to hold such a major asset rather than regarding it as transferable. Once you go past that, the question is how do we work together? For PGG Wrightson, there is no single simple answer, so from my perspective, it means wearing the different hats of our many different business units, rather than just real estate. So whether that be livestock, wool, FruitFed, farm supplies, or irrigation: for iwi organisations I become a one-stop shop for expertise, building relationships and putting them in contact with whichever part of our company can best meet their needs,” says Wayne.

It’s a big and ongoing challenge, though Wayne wouldn’t have it any other way.


Property Express Autumn 2022 Edition out now