Riana Higgins 

Riaana’s great grandfather, Kopua Waihi was one of the first recipients of the Ahuwhenua Cup,  for Māori Farmer of the Year in 1951, over 65 years ago.  He was presented with the trophy by the then Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. S. G. Holland and was highly praised for developing difficult country into a profitable dairy farm.  Sadly, he was involved in a tragic fatal accident on his farm at Whakawhitira 5 years later.

Riaana, a recent graduate of the Tairāwhiti Farm Cadet Scheme Māori and Pasifika Trades Training programme provided through Tūranga Ararau, completed her agriculture qualifications midyear and has followed her academic pathway and enrolled with Massey University for the second semester to complete a Diploma in Science and Technology. From there Riaana plans to transition to a Bachelor, Vet Technician with Massey or to Lincoln University to complete a degree in agricultural science. 

After the tragic loss of her very much loved Dad Joe in March 2015, Riaana had to “step up” to manage their 30 hectare farm in Te Karaka. Fortunately she had support of her brother Elwood, sisters, Teaira, Waiata and niece Honey along with her Mum Trudi. Her Nan, Mate Wanoa was always there in the background, encouraging Riaana to pursue her goals and aspirations and she is very proud of her mokopuna for being the person she is, kind and caring and describes her as a humble girl, very independent who loves all her whānau.  Riaana’s late grandfather, Peehi Wanoa also always had a kind word of encouragement for his mokopuna.  Along with her Mum Trudi and Nan; Peehi and Joe would be so proud of Riaana for what she has accomplished. They were both of the “old school” believing that when you had a job to do, you did it to your best ability, once.

Initially, Riaana thought she may return to Alice Springs but decided instead to take on the responsibility of managing their farm. She actually started with Tūranga Ararau in 2015 through a Training for Work programme and continued onto the farming programme to complete the National Certificate in Ag (Stockmanship) Level 3 in 2015 followed by the National Certificate in Ag (Animal Health and Husbandry) Level 3 in 2016. This gave her a real insight into farming as a future career and she is very thankful to have had lots of support and guidance in her studies from MPTT Coordinator Jack Tomoana and tutors Graham Peard and Tahi Hiroki and his farming students as well as from her farming neighbours, Anwyl and Cobus. She made sure she maximised her time with Tūranga Ararau especially with Graham making a real effort to learn as much as she could from his extensive farming experience. 

 “She was a very astute learner and a pleasure to teach both the theory and practical components of the programmes,” says Jack. “Her attendance was excellent as was her time management.” “Her secret, she told me, was pretty simple. It was her planner where she wrote down everything then crossed off the tasks as she completed them. It showed what she had accomplished and as a reminder of things to do.”

While learning Riaana ran bobby calves, a handful of sheep, cattle and horses on the family land. “I always wanted to work with animals and had hoped to be a vet,” she says. “I may still do that but over the past year I have really developed a passion for farming.” She is very proud that she has reared 55 Friesian bull calves from four day olds to weaning them onto grass at 7-8 weeks before fattening and selling them as yearlings for a fair price. It gave her a real sense of accomplishment. Sometime in the future, Riaana hopes to meet the man of her dreams but he also must be interested in farming, she cannot imagine ever becoming a “city slicker” as she will not live in town.  She is free spirited, has a lovely wairua and loves her life on the farm with her horse Doughboy, heading dog Ross and pig dog cross huntaway Aleah.  Farming is in her blood, a legacy left to her from her great grandfather and she cannot ever imagine doing anything else. Riaana plans to be managing her own fully functional, working and producing beef cattle farm by the time she is 24 and one day walk in the footsteps of her great grandfather Kopua Waihi. A challenging thought but this no-nonsense vibrant, young Māori woman is leading the way for other young women who dream of pursuing a goal in farm management … the world is your kina Riaana!!

In Riaana’s words “I love it, farming is so exciting, there is always something to do, every day”.