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Onuku farms potential great, says

Peter Livingston

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Agfirst director and farm manager Peter Livingston discusses his involvement with Onuku and his background in farming and farm management.

The farming operations of Onuku Maori Lands Trust are now realising their huge potential and have huge future prospects.

Peter Livingston is a Director of Agfirst Consultants and for the past six years has been the Farm Manager for Onuku Maori Lands Trust operations at Rerewhaakaitu.

His work involves not only the day-to-day running of the farm but also putting in place the strategic plan, financial management and all aspects of farm business.

Peter has been working with Maori trusts and incorporations for 23 years in the sheep, dairy and deer sectors.  He has also had an extensive involvement in dairy conversion work, which has been ongoing in the Central North Island for some time.

He hails from Taranaki, where his family farms near Hawera in hill country sheep and beef. 


Huge Potential at Onuku

Peter says he sees his work with Onuku farms as wide-ranging.

“The thing about Onuku is that it has huge potential that we recognised half a decade ago was unrealised and needed to be realised.”

The farm had been unchanged over a long period, starting off as a dry-stock farm and two dairy farms set up on the trust land along with another small property it had purchased.

“What we recognised was that the returns on asset and feed from dairying were continuing to outstrip that from dry-stock.  So we set about redeveloping the farm business plan and lined that up with the trust strategic plan.”


Strategic Plan

The trust had had a strategic plan for a long period.  The plan was extensive, covering everything from social needs through to environmental and business sides of the operation.

“We decided that rather there being a five to ten-year timeframe, we needed to look out to 25, 30 or even 50 years.  Decisions made now will affect how this operation is set up and the returns it gives back to owners over the next half century and even longer.”

The strategy is, therefore, two- and even three-fold, with the first being to intensify operations to make better use of Onuku’s assets.

“That involved making sure it had the infrastructure, the stock policies, and the people – everything that was needed to create decent farming outcomes and improve profitability.”

The other recognition was that profitability was not only about extra production but also the cost of production.  As part of the strategic planning, much emphasis went on profit as the driver while bearing in mind land care needs and environmental issues.


Expanding out the farm gate

The second part of the strategy was to keep an open mind about expanding the Onuku operation outside the farm gate.  The trust will be the landowner in perpetuity and farms on the boundary will come up from time to time.

The third opportunity that came about recently was diversifying away from straight pastoral farming on Onuku farm land.  The move to diversify has led to the more recent decision to start a project involving growing manuka for honey and oil products. 

While there is a long way to go, Peter says the strategy is quite comprehensive and makes sure the managers and owners can turn out something worthwhile growing to put out the farm gate.


Agfirst director and farm manager talks about the strategy and prospects ahead for Onuku Maori Lands Trust's farm properties.

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