Grace Rehu is only 21 but has taken away a very big prize in Māori horticulture as the 2023 winner of the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Grower Trophy.
Based in Hastings where she works for Turners and Growers, Rehu told REX hosts Hamish McKay and Rebecca Greaves the 900-strong crowd created an awesome atmosphere at the awards ceremony.
"It was definitely an extraordinary event," she said.
"Some of my family came with me and they were just amazed by the whole kaupapa as well."
Currently a leading hand in the Puketapu sector in Hawkes Bay, Rehu was first introduced to the horticulture industry at just 10 years old working on a strawberry farm during her school holidays and just fell more and more in love with the sector the longer she spent in it.
The awards were judged on skill and knowledge in horticulture but also predominantly on the values and attitude of the individual contestants as people, which appealed to Rehu.
"The judging process was a lot different, it's more about us as people which I loved about it."
On the awards night, the three finalists for the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Grower Trophy were also surprised with a $5000 prize from Te Tumu Paeroa to celebrate their success.
"We weren't expecting it at all and it just shows how much love our sponsors have for us."
It was also a particularly historical night as three Māori wāhine were selected as the finalists for the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Grower Trophy for the first time ever.
On top of all this, Rehu has been involved with the Turners and Growers Emerging Leaders Program which focuses on giving young people the chance to learn about taking more senior roles in horticulture.