Eugene and Pania King are the owners and operators of Kiriroa Station at Matawai, north-west of Gisborne. The husband and wife team are the 2019 winners of the Ahuwhenua Trophy for the top Māori sheep and beef farm in Aotearoa.
Eugene says, “The thing we came up with was we can't do it individually, but as a whānau we can pool our resources and maybe it'll get us a shot, just to get in the door and then we'll work from there.”
Eugene and Pania were shearing for around 14 years. In 2001 they relocated from the West Coast to the East Coast to Mangaroa Station, and that's where they got their start.
“We were at Mangoroa, doing all our own shearing about 40,000 sheep a year, doing all our own crutching, stocking, all the other jobs all on top of that, and we were paying ourselves $400 bucks a week and that was what we were going to live on,” says Eugene.
Pania says, “In seven years there were seven kids born, lucky actually none of them were born in the bloody woolshed. So, if we look back on our little journey to where we are now at Kiriroa, what we have achieved, we went from being unbankable in 2001 to owning 25,000 stock units.”
In 2014 they moved to Motu to start a new chapter in their lives at Kiriroa Station, and through hard work they turned a $170k investment into $3.3m.
Kiriroa Station is situated in the Motu Valley between Gisborne and Opotiki. The Motu Valley is home to weka and because of their declining numbers, Eugene and Pania retired 2ha of land for them.
“The GDC (Gisborne District Council) informs me we were one of the first farms that actually got a plan up here, in conjunction with GDC we got some funding through the heritage fund and have a habitat for the Weka, the only man-made habitat in Tairāwhiti”, says Pania.
Pania maintains that commitment, hard work, compromise, are some of the key components of their success.