In the rolling hills of Mōkai, Miraka the milk processing plant is a bustling hive of activity, on the day that Te Ahi Kaa visits, there was a power cut so it wasn’t business as usual.
Murray Hemi is Kaitiaki and General Manager of Environment leadership and is new to the dairy industry, but has keen sense of people and sustainable practises. He has background with GNS Science, and has worked with Crown Research Institutes in Māori environment advocacy, the committee Te Ara Putaiao, discussed issues around western science and Mātauranga Māori as part of the sector.
“One of the things around innovation is that you need to have some level of tension or discomfort but it needs to be the right amount too much and it tends to polarise positions but not enough it tends to be all soft and fluffy’ he says.
Nō Ngāti Kahungunu, Hemi grew up in Greytown which was the focal point of the Māori Parliament, Te Kōtahitanga. A self-described collector of stories, he enjoys working alongside people while analysing organisational and cultural practises.
“It’s a really rich background for me its been very informative been lucky enough to have a lot o tupuna writings and recordings that have come out of Pāpāwai which have been very informative for me in terms of my identity and who I am.” he says.
The mantra of Miraka is ‘Nurturing Our World’ and Hemi agrees that this goes much further than its products, part of his work is to ensure that Miraka is sustainable for the long term future of the business.
“I had known about Miraka for some years previously and I had known their reputation...I was looking for the space for like minds and like hearts for different reasons and arrived in the same spot to create something powerful and something beautiful” he says.
As part of its sustainable practises Miraka uses renewable geothermal energy to power its plant, the biological waste is composted at nearby worm farms run by Tuaropaki Trust, in turn this then feeds the native plant nursery. The organisation has recently signed on Gen Less an initiative from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority where individuals and businesses commit to reducing their energy use and carbon footprint.
“If we find partners who have the right philosophy and the right vision then things go really well…Gen Less is a way of thinking and seeing the world any small step we can do in our lives in our households and communities is going to be enough to make a difference, so less waste, being more conscious about the energy you use, be more conscious about the things that you buy.” he says.
Milk is supplied to Miraka by 100 farms located less than one hundred kilometres from the processing plant, it currently exports to 23 countries. In the wake of Covid 19 pandemic, the company is reviewing the logistics around it.
“It’s just a question of time the biggest issue is having containers to ship our product…we’re lucky enough to switch product from UHT to milk powder so in terms of longer shelf life and long term sustainability of the product…there are some challenges in terms of logistics but the longer this goes on the harder it is going to be for everyone.”
Miraka is owned by a number of Māori organisations including Tuaropaki Trust, Tauhara Moana Trust, Huiarau Farms, Wairarapa Moana Incorporation, Waipapa 9 Trust and Hauhungaroa Partnership.