To get ahead in the dairy industry Tangaroa Walker knows the key is to seize every opportunity and find ways to stand out.
It’s advice he was given early on in his career – and it’s a message he’s now passing on to other aspiring young farmers.
At just 26 years of age, Tangaroa is a well-respected future leader, having won the inaugural Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer Award and the Southland Primary ITO Trainee of the Year in 2012.
Entries for this year’s Ahuwhenua competition close at the end of February and Tangaroa has agreed to mentor Genesis Raroa – a fellow Southlander who wants to move into farm management.
Primary ITO has facilitated the mentoring arrangement and Tangaroa says he’s looking forward to passing on his knowledge and lending Genesis moral support.
“Winning that competition fast-tracked my career by three years at least. It’s opened up a lot of opportunities for me and I’m looking forward to helping someone else through the process so they can achieve their own goals.”
Tangaroa, who began milking cows at age 13, strongly believes the dairy industry needs more Maori leaders.
“My advice to any Ahuwhenua entrant is that it’s our responsibility, as Maori, to take the opportunities that are out there. We need to be in a position where we can run our own farms and be good role models in business.
“I think the key to being successful in the dairy industry is to focus on the goals ahead. It can be a struggle moving from a farm hand, to 2IC, then into farm management. It’s tough. You do a lot of work for not much money. But if you have the goal of becoming a contract milker or sharemilker and keep focussed on that, you will get there.”
Tangaroa was offered his dream contract milking job within a week of winning the Ahuwhenua award. The accolade has opened many other doors for him – with invitations to speak at schools, on farms and participate in industry organisations.
“Entering Ahuwhenua really opened my eyes. I got to meet so many inspirational, successful Maori, a lot of whom I’m still in touch with and working with today. I felt very comfortable throughout the Ahuwhenua interview. I felt like I could deliver the information to the judges and no-one was looking down on me.”
Tangaroa was recently invited to attend a KPMG forum for future leaders in the primary sector where participants were asked to develop a vision for 2025. He is also a current member of Primary ITO’s Dairy Industry Partnership Group which is helping to shape the future of the industry.
“Plus I’m a member of Venture Southland’s youth taskforce to try and encourage more youngsters to enter the dairy industry. It’s awesome. I really enjoy helping people.”
Tangaroa firmly believes pushing yourself and ‘standing out’ is the key to getting ahead. And while it’s a strategy that’s worked well for him so far, he still has plenty of goals ahead of him.
“I try and keep it humble. I don’t think of myself as a role model yet. I’m just looking forward to sitting down with Genesis and helping him work out his goals, and hopefully passing on some tips about the Ahuwhenua interview process to help him on his way.”