Maatu Akonga is no stranger to industry competitions. In 2020 he won the inaugural Ahuwhenua Young Maori Grower Award, the 2022 Hawke’s Bay Young Fruit Grower of the Year competition and more recently he proudly represented Hawke’s Bay at the national final of the Young Grower of the Year and took home the Best Speech Award against five other exceptionally strong young horticulturists.
The national final was held in Nelson on 21 and 22 September and over two days the six competitors vied for the grand title in a series of practical and theoretical modules. The national competition has been running since 2007 and is a platform to encourage young people to challenge their horticultural knowledge against other liked- minded peers.
“The opportunities and networking that came from both our regional competition and the national final has been amazing,” says Akonga, reflecting on a whirlwind six months.
“It exposes you as an individual to the industry, to show the talent you have and how much talent there really is in the industry. Everyone goes into the competition nervous but you come out with a great bond with all the other competitors”.
Akonga is Assistant Manager in the Twyford Sector for T&G Global, responsible for over 80 hectares of apples. “It was awesome to have so much willing support from T&G, local businesses and sector organisations in the lead up to the event. Everyone is happy to help out at a drop of a hat and its really made me appreciate how close-knit our industry is. Taking part in the regional and national competition has reaffirmed my passion for the industry and it is such a great platform to extend and test your knowledge. “My advice would be to give the competition a go and after the event you ‘ll realise just how much potential you have to offer. For every young grower out there looking for a bright future in the industry, this event should be on your bucket list!”
The 2023 Hawke’s Bay Young Fruit Grower of the Competition will be held on the 30th June. Entries will open early January at www.hbfa.co.nz