Iwi hail purchase of long-established jade retailer

Westland Greenstone staff member Lynda Pehi (left) and Te Runanga o Makaawhio pouarahi (chief...
Westland Greenstone staff member Lynda Pehi (left) and Te Runanga o Makaawhio pouarahi (chief executive) Kara Edwards outside the Westland Greenstone premises in Hokitika yesterday. PHOTO: PAUL MADGWICK
New Zealand’s oldest jade retailer, Hokitika-based Westland Greenstone Ltd, has been sold to local iwi, Ngati Mahaki in Te Runanga o Makaawhio.

A sale and purchase agreement with owner Kiwi Country Ltd and a runanga-owned subsidiary went unconditional on June 17. The changeover date is July 1.

Westland Greenstone was established in 1962 and is recognised as the pioneer of the jade industry in this country.

It was formed with the help of the late Walter Tainui (Ngati Waewae, Ngati Mahaki) and for the first 30 years mined pounamu in the upper Arahura River, for which it had a minerals permit.

Since the 1990s it has worked pounamu sourced from South Westland, the home of Ngati Mahaki.

Te Runanga o Makaawhio chairman Paul Madgwick said the acquisition helped cement the iwi’s place at the forefront of the industry, from extraction to retailing.

"Westland Greenstone and Waewae Pounamu, owned by Te Runanga o Ngati Waewae, complement each other, and having both now in iwi hands restores Poutini Ngai Tahu’s role as the lead in our ancestral industry," he said

"It’s thrilling that four of the main pounamu businesses in Hokitika — the jade capital of New Zealand — are Poutini Ngai Tahu."

Ngai Tahu is the legal owner of pounamu, and Te Runanga o Ngati Waewae and Te Runanga o Makaawhio also jointly own Ngai Tahu Pounamu Ltd, which operates an authentication scheme that validates genuine pounamu from the flood of imported jade and operates a clearing house for raw and manufactured stone.

Mr Madgwick said the runanga appreciated the skill and experience of the Westland Greenstone team and looked forward to working with the existing staff to continue Westland’s place as a major tourism player in Hokitika and the West Coast.

Te Anau-based John and Sarah Greaney have owned Westland Greenstone since 2007 as part of their South Island tourism enterprise Kiwi Country Ltd.

Mr Greaney said after 47 years in the sport and tourism retail business, he was now able to look at taking his next step towards retirement.

"Kiwi Country Ltd bought Westland Greenstone in 2007, and since this time has navigated the challenges of a global financial crisis, changing tourism environment, and global pandemic. We are proud to have brought the business through these difficult times and position it for the future."

Mr Greaney said the couple was very happy to see the business ownership being returned to its West Coast roots.

"Te Runanga o Makaawhio have an amazing opportunity to continue telling the story of pounamu and we wish them every success."