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Source: Eastern Institute of Technology – Tairāwhiti

12 mins ago

Two passionate Ruatoria men are behind an idea to give a future to the rangatahi (youth) of the East Coast.

They hope their model might also provide a future model for other iwi to look at.

The plan is to educate about cannabis through hemp with a fully licensed hemp crop which is only a stepping stone into a new industry, they say.

There are a few main reasons Porourangi Tawhiwhirangi and Doone Harrison have devoted the past year to licensing, developing and growing hemp on a small block of land near Ruatoria.

“We were part of the 2018-2019 EIT Tairāwhiti hemp course based in Ruatoria that had regular interaction with Panapa Ehau from Hikurangi Cannabis (now Rua Bioscience). Panapa provided valuable insight into how the industry might look and a few factors from that pushed us,” says Porourangi. 

Circumstances surrounding the land used for the previous hemp plot had also changed that could have given EIT hemp course students limited opportunities to carry on studying hemp. Having a new plot would benefit them, he says.

Another reason  behind their decision to start their own company, apply for a licence to grow hemp and put in the hard graft to develop a piece of land, was a passion to try and create something in this new upcoming industry for their homeland and the whanau living there.

Doone’s brother provided them the opportunity to do something on his five-hectare block of land where they have established the area to grow the crop after five months of physical labour, using personal networks and working for free. 

“By creating this venture it has catered for education, social, whanau and tourism as well as interest from hemp entrepreneurs. It has also allowed students from different courses at the Ruatoria campus to engage and meet the outcomes of their different assessments,” says Porourangi.

Students, volunteers and rangatahi have also been planting and helping maintain the crop since the three-year licence was accepted in October.

Rangatahi personal development and work-related training is a programme they are also looking for funding to support and run around this hemp initiative.

“With the medicinal cannabis industry starting in New Zealand now,  we hope to provide the venue and hands on training for these young people to enter as workers or create one of the much-needed businesses that can network together to provide income,” says Doone.

“We want to look at providing another option for the young people here and for them to thrive in this future industry.”

“Some of the ones who don’t go into employment or further study are stuck in an intergenerational loop of hopelessness. 

“We would like support and provide something for them but it’s up to the individual. we are not offering them a hand out we want to give them a hand up instead and that’s where a personal development and employment skills can help.”

The passion of EIT hemp course tutors Robin Thomson and Lisa Beach has also been a factor for Porourangi and Doone.

Robin says  bringing the course to the former student’s hemp site to work along each other has  boosted the students respect for one another and the tutors.

“Sharing their skills with other students has been uplifting for all. 

 “Lisa and I are so proud of these two past students for following their dreams, goals and aspirations.

“Seeing them grow to be valuable assets to our people and community is heart-warming.”

 He says he loves tutoring on the coast.

 “To see them come and learn and grow their skills, set their sights high and just go for it.”gardening by the moon

The EIT hemp course is in its fourth year. 

“We are teaching the students the basics in growing hemp so when the industry goes boom we will be ready.”

It is the only place in New Zealand offering a hemp growing course and there has been a huge amount off interest in the course. 

This year there are two students from Australia and five from Gisborne but the course is limited because of the lack of accomodation in Ruatoria.

Before doing the hemp course, students do a Maara Kai course and learn gardening using the old ways including planting by the moon.

“They learn how to make their own seed raising mix, potting mix, compost and liquid fertiliser – we are blessed here we have the natural resources and can tap into them.

“They also learn soil types, rongoa Maori – the basic medicinal properties of different plants.”