High Hopes for the Town of Ruatoria
New Zealand medicinal business, Hikurangi Cannabis is looking to secure its slice of the “cannabusiness”, all while empowering the marginalised community of Ruatoria and allowing it to create wealth from within. Anna Watanabe reports on the company for Japanese news site, Kyodo News.
Based in the regional community of Ruatoria on the East Coast, Hikurangi Cannabis is working to ensure Māori are included in – and benefit from – the country’s growing cannabis industry.
“We’ve got a lot of people who grow illicit cannabis for their incomes. They don’t grow it to be millionaires or to put Ferraris in the garage – they grow it to put food on the table and shoes on their kids’ feet,” explains co-founder Panapa Ehau, 39, as he drives along the narrow and winding road to Ruatoria, two hours north of the company’s humble offices in Gisborne.
“If we’re not at the leading edge of this industry, other people will be, and our people, whose incomes come from the illicit market, their incomes will decrease, and therefore their wellbeing will decrease,” Ehau explains to Kyodo News.
In December, the New Zealand government enacted a law to make medicinal cannabis more widely available and began the process of creating a regulatory body to allow homegrown products to be manufactured and sold.
In 2020, the country will hold a referendum on whether recreational cannabis should be legalised, potentially opening New Zealand up to an industry that is estimated to be worth tens of billions of dollars worldwide.
Ruatoria – with a resident population of just 750 people – is one of the most disadvantaged communities in New Zealand and would benefit greatly from involving itself in the growth industry.
In 2018, Hikurangi Cannabis allowed locals to become stakeholders with a minimum investment of $50 for 50 shares.
“We raised $1.5 million from arguably the lowest socio-economic area of the country,” Ehau said.
With locals supplementing their income with illegally grown cannabis for so many years, Ehau says Ruatoria is home to “some of the best growers in the country”, making the skills and knowledge in the community a valuable resource for the budding company.
“What we want to be able to do is show our younger generations and the ones that aren’t born yet, that we have the ability to be world-class in whatever we do … We can be awesome, and we can be the change.”
Original article by Anna Watanabe, Kyodo News, May 31, 2019.
Photo by Rebecca Grunwell.