[7 July/ Rural News Group]

Maori Kiwifruit Growers Forum Chairman Tiaki Hunia said there is an ambitious goal to increase the percentage of total kiwifruit production coming from Maori kiwifruit orchards from 8 percent to 20 percent. Mr Hunia said this growth could come from new developments or mergers or acquisitions. Mr Hunia noted a large proportion of Maori land is leased to outside investors, and the forum is considering ways to help landowners prepare for when those arrangements end, such as upskilling and helping landowners be ready to take over and manage the orchards. The forum- a partnership between Maori kiwifruit growers, Te Puni Kokiri and Zespri- has been created to advocate for the interests of Maori growers in the sector. The core of the forum was in the Kiwifruit Industry Strategy Project which recognised the needs of the growing Maori interest in the sector.