The winner of the inaugural Ahuwhenua Young Māori Grower Award is 26-year-old Maatutaera Akonga.

Maatutaera is of Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungungu descent and is senior leading hand at Llewellyn Horticulture based in Hastings.

The two other finalists in the competition were 24-year-old Brandon Cross of Tauranga, who works as trainee orchard manager for the large kiwifruit orchard management and post-harvest company Seeka; and 25-year-old Finnisha Tuhiwai, who is packhouse manager for Maungatapere Berries located west of Whangarei in a rural township of Maungatapere.

Award judge Aaron Hunt from Te Tumu Paeroa said the standard of entrants was very high, reflecting the number of young Māori who are making successful careers in horticulture.