The story of how New Zealand produces food needs to be about more than our climatic and geographical advantages, Mavis Mullins says.
It needs to be about our tangata whenua; it needs to be about what makes us unique.
Mavis’s closing keynote address on the first day of the 5th annual Future Farms conference in Palmerston North was titled Aotearoa-ising the agri story.
The production of food needed more than science, she said.
“If we don’t engage the heart with the science we are standing on one foot far too long, we are much stronger with two feet on the ground.”
A wool classer by trade, Mavis is a wāhine who can straddle many ao. She chairs the Poutama Trust, which provides business development services to Māori, and in 2017 she was inducted into the New Zealand Business Hall of Fame.
She shared the work Aohanga Incorporation has done with its Owahanga Station in the northern Wairarapa. It has developed a 100-year plan, known as the mokopuna decision. Mavis said 100 years is only three forestry rotations.
She advised those in the agrifood sector to plan long and take the people with them. “We won’t enjoy the outcomes but our children will and our grandchildren will.”
While technology is great for keeping us connected, especially with overseas shareholders, Mavis also stressed the need for face-to-face interaction.
She is a director of Atihau-Whanganui Inc, which owns land in inland Whanganui and Ruapehu. When Atihau hosted American meal kit company Blue Apron and the Glerups family, Danish woollen slipper makers, they were treated like the kings and queens they are to show how important they are to the Māori incorporation.
Mavis, a dairy farmer in Dannevirke, concluded by saying she is fizzing at the opportunities in the agri sector.
Māori-ising NZ Inc is about doing amazing things for everyone, she said.