Ben Purua wins Māori Young Farmer competition at Ahuwhenua Trophy

24 May 2024

Emotions were high as Ben Purua was announced as the winner of the 2024 Young Māori Farmer Award for Dairy at the prestigious Ahuwhenua Trophy, taking the opportunity to call out the benefits of training and his apprenticeship.

Nikki and Ben Purua at the Ahuwhenua Trophy (courtesy Ahuwhenua Trophy, Alphapix Photography)

The announcement was made in front of 850 people at the Ahuwhenua Trophy awards dinner in Hamilton this month, celebrating excellence in Māori farming. Attendees included Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and Kiingi Tuheitia, along with other Ministers, overseas diplomats, representatives of central and local government, and agribusiness leaders.

Primary ITO is a proud sponsor of the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer Award. Executive director Andrea Leslie took to the stage to congratulate the three finalists: Ben Purua (Tainui), Farm Manager at Waimakariri Lands Ltd; Hannah Speakman (Ngāti Kahungunu), 2IC at Pine Hill Dairy (Woodland Farming Ltd), and Shayden Gardiner (Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngā Rauru, Ngāti Rangi), Assistant Manager of Ma Taua Dairies.

An emotional Ben took a few minutes to compose himself before giving a heartfelt speech paying tribute to his wife Nikki, and acknowledging his fellow finalists, whānau, iwi, and the support he has received from Primary ITO. In his acceptance speech, Ben said:

“Thank you to Primary ITO and a massive mihi to my Training Adviser Elri, who somehow managed to encourage me to complete my qualifications and apprenticeship. I truly appreciate all the mahi that you did. To the team that supported us in our study days and the alumni who came to tautoko (support), ngā mihi to you all.”

Matiu Julian, the lead award judge and Primary ITO’s Māori Engagement Manager, says it is never easy to judge the competition, with such worthy finalists.

“Congratulations to Nikki and Ben Purua. Ben is an outstanding young man who will continue to grow and uphold the mana of the Ahuwhenua kaupapa to advance and lead within and for the Māori agribusiness sector.

“It was a great night full of emotion, hugs and tears, with Waikato hosting us. The whole competition is about personal development and we take the finalists into new spaces, where they get to meet a whole new whānau who enable them to grow, connect and learn.”

During the week leading up to the big announcement, the three finalists took part in a study tour run by Primary ITO, MSD Animal Health and Te Tumu Paeroa. This included experiencing a range of workshops, visiting industry businesses, meeting senior Māori leaders, and learning about the local iwi history, with opportunities to develop and practice public speaking skills.

As part of the awards presentation, the three finalists were also presented with a $7,500 scholarship that can be used to further develop their careers.

Ben’s wife Nikki Purua, a Training Adviser for Primary ITO, says it has been an incredible couple of weeks. Earlier this month, Ben was awarded the DairyNZ People and Leadership Award at the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards.

“We feel very grateful and honoured to be a part of Ahuwhenua journey,” Nikki says. “It was awesome meeting and spending time with Hannah Speakman and Shayden Gardner, the two other finalists.”

The other major announcement at the Ahuwhenua Awards was the Ahuwhenua Trophy winner for the top Māori dairy farm: Wairarapa Moana ki Pouakani Incorporation (WMI), based at Mangakino in the central North Island.

Young Māori Farmer Award winner Ben Purua with fellow finalists Hannah Speakman and Shayden Gardiner, and the team from Primary ITO (courtesy Ahuwhenua Trophy, Alphapix Photography)