Young man on a mission

Tangaroa Walker is a young man with a very clear and bold vision for his future.

By the time he is 40, Mr Walker (22) wants to own holiday homes in Queenstown and Mt Maunganui, a dairy farm in Southland and be living on a beef farm at Whakamarama, in the Bay of Plenty, the area where he grew up.

They might be hefty goals but, given what the Southland-based lower order sharemilker has already achieved, you get the feeling he will most likely achieve them.

The winner of the inaugural Ahuwhenua Young Maori Trainee/Cadet of the Year award is candid as he outlines his upbringing and explains how he wants to get young New Zealanders from "rough backgrounds" into farming.

By the time he was 5, Mr Walker had lived in 16 houses and attended four schools. There was little stability in the young man's life until he was adopted by his aunt and uncle, who lived on a small beef cattle farm.

Not only did they show him stability, but he developed a love of farming while living there.

While admitting he "got led astray a little bit" in his teens, Mr Walker became a prefect at Tauranga Boys College and played rugby in the First XV. He was also in the Bay of Plenty under-20 rugby team for several years.

From the age of 13, he had been working at a dairy farm down the road before and after school "just for a bit of pocket money".

After leaving school, he was offered a second in charge position on the farm. While the pay "wasn't the best ... it was a job", he said.

In 2009, Mr Walker and his partner of now six years made a huge decision to shift to Southland.

He had given farm adviser Ivan Lines his curriculum vitae, saying he wanted to work on a family-oriented farm that was going to teach him "the ins and outs of farming down south".

"That's what I got," he said.

He moved south mid-season, working for Wayne and Debbie Little - "my South Island parents" - and finished that 2009-10 season with them, before his contract was renewed for the following season, and he was second in charge on a 450-cow farm at Winton.

While there, Mr Walker attended an AgITO Farming to Succeed course. The intensive five-day leadership programme gave him his "business mind".

His next move was to lower order sharemilkers Graham and Glenda Haynes, where he was managing on an equity farm.

When they moved on, he was offered a lower order sharemilking position on that farm.

Being self-employed at 22 was an "awesome feat" and his aunt and uncle were proud of him, he said.

"I want to be the most successful Maori in the world and I want to motivate young Maori by directing them down the path I have followed to show them that the opportunities are out there if you are willing to sacrifice and put in the hard yards," he said.

Mr Walker was thrilled to win the Ahuwhenua award, which was created to encourage young Maori, aged between 16 and 25, into leadership roles. He received a trophy, a training scholarship and $3000 cash.

Last year, he was named AgITO Southland trainee of the year. Another goal was to win farm manager of the year in the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards.


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