Native Affairs – High Hopes

By Peata Melbourne

Marijuana growers on the East Coast are being encouraged to turn their green fingers to the much more legal commercial activity of growing hemp – and it may be more profitable.

Hikurangi Enterprises planted a trial crop in a secret location just outside Ruatoria. The location remained secret until the crop was recently harvested.

"This is really a trial about being able to grow a crop, engaging the community and developing some knowledge moving forward into the possibility of growing bigger crops, or making it an option for landowners to be able to utilise," says Panapa Ehau, Managing Director of Hikurangi Enterprises.

The region already has pine and kanuka honey growing but hemp is seen as a viable business that engages local knowledge and skills and will bring jobs and income to the community.

Some of those involved in the new project are seasoned dope growers: "I actually know a lot of growers here on the coast who don't smoke marijuana but grow beautiful marijuana, and it's mainly for the money" says one marijuana growers. “I know fellas who have 50 years growing this plant, Why not bring these skills and ideas to teach the upcoming rangatahi, A lot of these hemp plants were tall and scrawny but we can help the hemp growers grow their herb properly."

Hikurangi Enterprises Business Development Manager Manu Caddie told Native Affairs, "The crop we just harvested is close to $5 million worth; if we converted it to retail value, you know there's a few costs along the way there but that's 10 million a hectare which is, compared to a thousand a hectare you get from maize or corn, a fairly significant increase”.

Misconceptions about hemp have long lingered. Hemp, however, does not contain the high levels of the psychoactive element, THC, found in marijuana. Industrial hemp has to be tested - anything that has more than 0.35 percent THC is considered marijuana. The hemp crop project led by Hikurangi Enterprises tested at a 0.1 percent.