Business unusual

Director of Hikurangi Enterprises a passionate driving force.

Director of Hikurangi Enterprises a passionate driving force.

JOBS FOCUSED: Panapa Ehau always knew he would come home to the East Coast, raise his children here, and help create a better future for generations to come. He is one of five directors of Hikurangi Enterprises who all share the same kaupapa — the development of more jobs on the East Coast. As the first New Zealand company to be licensed to grow medicinal cannabis, they are well on their way to success. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell

Panapa Ehau enters the cafe slowly, texting as he walks. He exudes casual. But this 39-year-old university-educated director of Hikurangi Enterprises is a passionate driving force to make people’s lives on the East Coast better. He chats to Sophie Rishworth about three basics everyone needs: food, a house, and meaningful work.

Panapa Ehau has a deep love for home and putting things in place for future generations.

“I was given the idea that whatever we do in our lifetime, we have to think six or seven generations ahead. I was told that in my very early 20s.”

It changed his focus from himself, and where the best surf was, to thinking 200 years ahead and what he could contribute.

“I want my descendants to be healthy in all aspects of their well-being . . . if I can do a couple of things to influence the environment they will live in for the better, then that’s what I can do in my small minute of time.”

More jobs need to be created for whanau, and decision-making has to heal the land and the people.
“Our own people are the only ones who have the solutions for the challenges that we face, be it that we may need some help along the way.”

It’s not business as usual, he says.
“It’s business as unusual.
“We are the descendants of Maui and he was always looking at ways to do things differently, and alternatively.”

Panapa wants to help remind Nga uri a Maui (the decendants of Maui) that Maui was an entrepreneur who challenged the status quo for the betterment for future generations.

“Work and industry opportunities are changing at an ever-increasing rate. Our future generations of decision-makers and workers need to be at the leading edge of this change.”

The three things all people need are accessible, healthy and affordable food, housing, and meaningful work.
“Let’s create income, then let’s create housing. No external organisation has the ability to provide the solutions we need . . . we have to lead it ourselves.”

Hikurangi Enterprises estimates that across Hikurangi-related organisations and companies they will have created more than 100 jobs over the next couple of years.

Right now they have around 30 employees, so they are well on their way.
“Now that we are creating jobs up the Coast, where are we going to put the people?”

How it all began

Four years ago there were a series of hui in Ruatoria for anyone interested in the economic development of the East Coast. There were 20 people at the first hui, 12 at the next one and five at the third hui.
“We thought we better do something while people were still coming.”

Those final five at the third hui made up the directorship of Hikurangi Enterprises.

They were Manu Caddie, Panapa Ehau, Matawai Keelan (general manager), Bella Paenga and Eliz Ngarimu.
They all shared the same kaupapa — creating more jobs — but had no money and no idea what they were gong to do.

They knew primary industries (the Coast’s backbone of employment, growing something once and then sending it away) had provided only one level of job creation.

The opportunity was to create more jobs by having more of the value added around Ruatoria . . . processing, manufacturing and distribution, says Panapa.

“Most of our income from our land is derived from primary industry. Forestry is killing our people and poisoning our land, while cows, sheep and other traditional farming methods have negative effects that are key factors in the massive erosion issues we are facing.”

So they asked themselves how to keep that value at home, and heal the land and people.
“Because at the moment the land and the people are not very healthy.”

Hikurangi Enterprises was started because nobody else could deal with these issues of unemployment, health and the erosion of the environment. If they don’t have the expertise, then they bring it in.

They have created relationships with private and public companies, research institutions, philanthropic groups, government organisiations and individuals to help them help their own people.

“Eighty-five percent of Ngati Porou live outside our tribal boundary and we know many of our people want to come home but they need jobs, and houses.

The move to high value

So they got in some experts — a couple of retired agronomists from the South Island.

Agronomists are experts in the science of soil management and crop production.

These guys pointed out the native tree species kanuka. Up until now the benefits of manuka were known but not much was known about kanuka.

Hikurangi organised private funding to leverage government funding, and research and development into kanuka got under way.

This pathway took them through to the high value of medicinal products, and through that journey the reduction of land used for primary industries to being used for native species, which the land also needed to stop erosion.

Once that pathway was set up with kanuka, they looked into industrial hemp — which is a classification for cannabis where the level of THC (the substance that gets you high) is below 0.35 percent.

They got a licence to grow industrial hemp, which had a three-month season from seed to harvest.

They weren’t sure what they were going to use it for but by the end of the trials they had seen the international “green rush” and identified the opportunity that existed in the medicinal cannabis market.

A first

Hikurangi Enterprises was the first New Zealand company to grow cannabis for the medicinal market.

“We took a risk for a crack at it first.”

Panapa found the risk exciting. It certainly didn’t keep him awake at night — his children already did that anyway.

Panapa and his partner Joanna McKay have four children aged from six months to eight years old. Life is busy.

A typical day starts at the crack of dawn (sometimes earlier, as the little one is teething) and it’s all whanau-focused. Panapa drops their three eldest off at Kaiti Kindergarten, where the three-year-old goes to kindy, and the five and eight-year-old take the bus to Whangara School.

Panapa either works from home, at the Hikurangi Cannabis offices in Gisborne, or travels up the Coast to Ruatoria.
Panapa believes we are all tasked with being guardians of the land and people for future generations.

“Leave it in a better state than you are given it, or at the least the same state you found it — don’t make it worse.”

Changing the thinking

“There’s another focus I’m passionate about,” says Panapa.

“We are the third or fourth generation that has state dependancy. And that’s a big weight on our people.

“In our grandparents’ era you couldn’t get a benefit.
“How do we change our kids’ thinking that they can live on handouts to creating their own sustenance?”

Panapa has Bachelor of Management and Marketing from Massey University, and a Master of Indigenous Studies at Otago University.

His Master’s degree took him around New Zealand looking at projects using alternative ways of building homes. It made him realise — if you didn’t have an income, you couldn’t build a house, or buy a home.

December 4, rules released

New Zealand passed the law in December last year to make cannibas legal for medical purposes. On December 4 this year, the rules and regulations around it will be made public. Panapa expects you will need a prescription for the cannabis oil from your GP first, because this is how it went when introduced in other countries. Then it moves to being available from a pharmacy, to over the counter — but that could be years away for New Zealand.

“It will take a while, and not one oil will fix everything.”


For the next generation

Panapa, who has Uepohatu and Ngati Porou whakapapa, spent many years away from the Tairawhiti — however, he always knew he was coming back to his roots in Ruatoria.

Panapa and Joanna moved back six years ago from Raglan. They live in Gisborne now because that’s where Panapa’s mum, aunties and cousins all live, and it’s important their young family have that support close. But he travels up the Coast regularly and says he is related to almost the whole of Ruatoria.

It’s his kaingatuturu — his homeland; te pito o te ao — the centre of his universe and his umbilical cord to the world.
“For me I was always going home.”

Joanna was raised on Te Kumi Station up Waikura Valley, by Potaka.
They first met on a plane on the way to a snowboarding exchange in America. They lost touch for 10 years, reconnecting in their late 20s.

He loves that their children are now getting older so they can introduce them to the surf, and diving and hunting for kai.

He wants them to know the land of their ancestors, always be able to feed themselves but more importantly, to look after the land as their turangawaeawae as ahi kaa — the ones who look after the natural resources.

It was important to both of them the relationship their children had to the land was a “lived connection” with their feet in the soil, and in the sand, of their homeland.

Panapa Ehau enters the cafe slowly, texting as he walks. He exudes casual. But this 39-year-old university-educated director of Hikurangi Enterprises is a passionate driving force to make people’s lives on the East Coast better. He chats to Sophie Rishworth about three basics everyone needs: food, a house, and meaningful work.

Panapa Ehau has a deep love for home and putting things in place for future generations.

“I was given the idea that whatever we do in our lifetime, we have to think six or seven generations ahead. I was told that in my very early 20s.”

It changed his focus from himself, and where the best surf was, to thinking 200 years ahead and what he could contribute.

“I want my descendants to be healthy in all aspects of their well-being . . . if I can do a couple of things to influence the environment they will live in for the better, then that’s what I can do in my small minute of time.”

More jobs need to be created for whanau, and decision-making has to heal the land and the people.
“Our own people are the only ones who have the solutions for the challenges that we face, be it that we may need some help along the way.”

It’s not business as usual, he says.
“It’s business as unusual.
“We are the descendants of Maui and he was always looking at ways to do things differently, and alternatively.”

Panapa wants to help remind Nga uri a Maui (the decendants of Maui) that Maui was an entrepreneur who challenged the status quo for the betterment for future generations.

“Work and industry opportunities are changing at an ever-increasing rate. Our future generations of decision-makers and workers need to be at the leading edge of this change.”

The three things all people need are accessible, healthy and affordable food, housing, and meaningful work.
“Let’s create income, then let’s create housing. No external organisation has the ability to provide the solutions we need . . . we have to lead it ourselves.”

Hikurangi Enterprises estimates that across Hikurangi-related organisations and companies they will have created more than 100 jobs over the next couple of years.

Right now they have around 30 employees, so they are well on their way.
“Now that we are creating jobs up the Coast, where are we going to put the people?”

How it all began

Four years ago there were a series of hui in Ruatoria for anyone interested in the economic development of the East Coast. There were 20 people at the first hui, 12 at the next one and five at the third hui.
“We thought we better do something while people were still coming.”

Those final five at the third hui made up the directorship of Hikurangi Enterprises.

They were Manu Caddie, Panapa Ehau, Matawai Keelan (general manager), Bella Paenga and Eliz Ngarimu.
They all shared the same kaupapa — creating more jobs — but had no money and no idea what they were gong to do.

They knew primary industries (the Coast’s backbone of employment, growing something once and then sending it away) had provided only one level of job creation.

The opportunity was to create more jobs by having more of the value added around Ruatoria . . . processing, manufacturing and distribution, says Panapa.

“Most of our income from our land is derived from primary industry. Forestry is killing our people and poisoning our land, while cows, sheep and other traditional farming methods have negative effects that are key factors in the massive erosion issues we are facing.”

So they asked themselves how to keep that value at home, and heal the land and people.
“Because at the moment the land and the people are not very healthy.”

Hikurangi Enterprises was started because nobody else could deal with these issues of unemployment, health and the erosion of the environment. If they don’t have the expertise, then they bring it in.

They have created relationships with private and public companies, research institutions, philanthropic groups, government organisiations and individuals to help them help their own people.

“Eighty-five percent of Ngati Porou live outside our tribal boundary and we know many of our people want to come home but they need jobs, and houses.

The move to high value

So they got in some experts — a couple of retired agronomists from the South Island.

Agronomists are experts in the science of soil management and crop production.

These guys pointed out the native tree species kanuka. Up until now the benefits of manuka were known but not much was known about kanuka.

Hikurangi organised private funding to leverage government funding, and research and development into kanuka got under way.

This pathway took them through to the high value of medicinal products, and through that journey the reduction of land used for primary industries to being used for native species, which the land also needed to stop erosion.

Once that pathway was set up with kanuka, they looked into industrial hemp — which is a classification for cannabis where the level of THC (the substance that gets you high) is below 0.35 percent.

They got a licence to grow industrial hemp, which had a three-month season from seed to harvest.

They weren’t sure what they were going to use it for but by the end of the trials they had seen the international “green rush” and identified the opportunity that existed in the medicinal cannabis market.

A first

Hikurangi Enterprises was the first New Zealand company to grow cannabis for the medicinal market.

“We took a risk for a crack at it first.”

Panapa found the risk exciting. It certainly didn’t keep him awake at night — his children already did that anyway.

Panapa and his partner Joanna McKay have four children aged from six months to eight years old. Life is busy.

A typical day starts at the crack of dawn (sometimes earlier, as the little one is teething) and it’s all whanau-focused. Panapa drops their three eldest off at Kaiti Kindergarten, where the three-year-old goes to kindy, and the five and eight-year-old take the bus to Whangara School.

Panapa either works from home, at the Hikurangi Cannabis offices in Gisborne, or travels up the Coast to Ruatoria.
Panapa believes we are all tasked with being guardians of the land and people for future generations.

“Leave it in a better state than you are given it, or at the least the same state you found it — don’t make it worse.”

Changing the thinking

“There’s another focus I’m passionate about,” says Panapa.

“We are the third or fourth generation that has state dependancy. And that’s a big weight on our people.

“In our grandparents’ era you couldn’t get a benefit.
“How do we change our kids’ thinking that they can live on handouts to creating their own sustenance?”

Panapa has Bachelor of Management and Marketing from Massey University, and a Master of Indigenous Studies at Otago University.

His Master’s degree took him around New Zealand looking at projects using alternative ways of building homes. It made him realise — if you didn’t have an income, you couldn’t build a house, or buy a home.

December 4, rules released

New Zealand passed the law in December last year to make cannibas legal for medical purposes. On December 4 this year, the rules and regulations around it will be made public. Panapa expects you will need a prescription for the cannabis oil from your GP first, because this is how it went when introduced in other countries. Then it moves to being available from a pharmacy, to over the counter — but that could be years away for New Zealand.

“It will take a while, and not one oil will fix everything.”


For the next generation

Panapa, who has Uepohatu and Ngati Porou whakapapa, spent many years away from the Tairawhiti — however, he always knew he was coming back to his roots in Ruatoria.

Panapa and Joanna moved back six years ago from Raglan. They live in Gisborne now because that’s where Panapa’s mum, aunties and cousins all live, and it’s important their young family have that support close. But he travels up the Coast regularly and says he is related to almost the whole of Ruatoria.

It’s his kaingatuturu — his homeland; te pito o te ao — the centre of his universe and his umbilical cord to the world.
“For me I was always going home.”

Joanna was raised on Te Kumi Station up Waikura Valley, by Potaka.
They first met on a plane on the way to a snowboarding exchange in America. They lost touch for 10 years, reconnecting in their late 20s.

He loves that their children are now getting older so they can introduce them to the surf, and diving and hunting for kai.

He wants them to know the land of their ancestors, always be able to feed themselves but more importantly, to look after the land as their turangawaeawae as ahi kaa — the ones who look after the natural resources.

It was important to both of them the relationship their children had to the land was a “lived connection” with their feet in the soil, and in the sand, of their homeland.

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