Cadet’s amazing year of firsts

For Kristy Roa, Ngaāti Maniapoto,  Ngāti Apakura, the last 9 months have been one highlight after another. 2019 has seen Kristy land a job, win a national award and travel to Chile to represent New Zealand – and she is only 20 years old.

The Waipaoa Station farm cadet has been working 2,400 hectares and 9,000 sheep in her first full-time role as a Shepherd. Hauiti Station is made up of Iwinui Station, Titirangi Station and Pukemaewa Station in Tolaga Bay, north of Gisborne. Owned by Hauiti Incorporation, the Farmlands shareholder runs beef, sheep, cropping and horticulture operations.

Farm Manager Michael Gunn describes Kristy as “awesome, intelligent, hard-working”.

Much of the media coverage has focused on Kristy’s non-farming background. Coming from a Waikato engineering family, Kristy rang an acquaintance to ask if she could visit his farm to “try it out”. One week later, she had a new mentor and the confidence to pursue farming as a career.

Kristy obviously makes an impression. Her former Training Manager at Waipaoa suggested she apply for this year’s Ahuwhenua Young Ma¯ ori Farmer of the Year award.

“My Mum had mentioned it as well. I’m in my first job so I didn’t think I’d have a chance. In the end, Mum said ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ Turns  out, the other applicants were just as new to the industry!”

When her name was read out at the gala awards function in Gisborne, Kristy says she was shocked and emotional. Soon she was receiving messages from other young women, saying how inspirational it was to read her story.

“I want to encourage others into farming so that’s been really cool,” she says.

With six permanent employees plus casuals, Hauiti’s size helped when Kristy headed off-farm admits Michael.

“We were able to spread the work when Kristy was away – we really wanted to support her. Everyone was rapt when she won. Kristy is so energetic and works hard, so she paid back our support by working extra weekends,” he says.

“I love being part of a team and working on the same goal. I’m really lucky,” admits Kristy.

When invited by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to represent New Zealand at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) workshop, Kristy was unsure whether to accept – as she thought it would be too much time off. The Hauiti Incorporation Board Chairman, Wayne Amaru says they were “more than happy for Kristy to go”.

Within two weeks Kristy and five others travelled to Chile to attend three APEC sessions in 10 days, including the New Zealand-led workshop ‘Rural Development through the Lens of Indigenous Communities and their Agribusinesses’.

Kristy played a key role, not only as a young indigenous woman but also as someone who came into farming from an urban background. Many APEC economies face the challenge of getting more urban-based young people to make the transition to build workforce numbers.

As the youngest Kiwi representative, Kristy was honoured to share her story, including presenting at Universidad Arturo Prat. Discussing business topics such as indigenous products, trade and alliances was inspiring and helped to fill her kete with knowledge, she says. Another highlight was seeing an indigenous Mapuché farming community in action.

“Winning the Young Māori Farmer award has definitely opened doors for me. I have been asked to speak at the Hauiti Incorporation AGM in November. I never would have imagined I would be doing that when I started shepherding in January!”

See ahuwhenuatrophy.maori.nz for more details, including the launch of a new ‘Excellence in Māori Horticulture Award’.