Aug. 12, 2019, 4:51 p.m.
In its largest acquisition since settlement, Northland iwi Te Rarawa has purchased the iconic Bell’s Produce Limited, as part of a strategic investment into the region’s growing horticultural industry.
Te Rarawa announced their purchase of the family business in front of over one hundred people in a ceremony today at the Bell’s Produce store in Kaitāia.
The iwi and the Bell family came together with the wider community, including local councillors, and kaumātua to make the acquisition announcement. This was followed by the gifting of taonga from Te Rarawa to the Bell family who established the business in 1995.
Te Waka Pupuri Pūtea, Te Rarawa’s commercial arm, will be managing the new business with chair June McCabe saying purchase discussions had been going on for some time and they were happy to see today arrive.
“This conversation started back in 2017 about purchasing the land. There were a lot of things at play however and we really needed to knuckle down and see how we make it work.”
“We’re in a perfect spot of the country for horticulture, our climate lends itself well to that so we’re looking forward to the possibilities to grow jobs, grow capacity and develop a highly-skilled workforce fitting for our region,” said McCabe.
212ha of horticultural lands in Pukepoto belonging to the business are adjacent to farming property currently owned by Te Rarawa allowing the possibility of expansion, something one of the previous owner’s, Allan Bell, was particularly happy about.
“Bell’s has been going for quite some time, but it’s due for some new blood and we couldn’t be more happier that it’s going back to the iwi.”
“The company itself is ready to expand and with Te Rarawa owning the neighbouring properties, the amalgamation possibilities brings the business to exciting times.”
With his 43 years of experience in the industry, Allan will stay on with the business as a member of the board of directors to help steer and guide the transition and growth.
Figures released in the latest Te Rarawa annual report show that the iwi has grown its assets from $39.8 million to $70.3 million since settlement.