One of Hawke’s Bay’s most influential Iwi leaders has swapped his corporate job to pick apples as the industry faces one of the worst labour shortages in recent years.
In an attempt to get more locals picking apples, Chairman of Ngati Kahungunu, Ngahiwi Tomoana and his wife Mere are picking apples for three days for Bostock New Zealand and are calling on other members of their Iwi to join them.
“I just can’t sleep at night knowing that our delicious Hawke’s Bay apples could go to waste. The apple industry drives our economy and creates thousands of jobs for our Iwi. So we need to support our local growers, so the apples don’t rot on the trees.
“We can’t drive past the ‘apple pickers wanted’ signs and detach ourselves from the main economy of our region.”
Mr Tomoana is working hard to encourage more community Iwi leaders to enter the apple industry.
“For every 4 RSE workers, there is a permanent job for our local people and it’s not just picking apples. It’s a stair case career where there are so many diverse jobs and opportunities now.
“I have picked apples since I was at High School and when the Tomoana Freezing Works closed down I picked apples for several years too. Mere and I also got married while we were picking apples.
“After working out here with the Bostock team I see how much the industry has changed and its now more science and technology driven. We lead the world in apple production and as a result, there are such a wide variety of job opportunities, which our Iwi need to jump on.”
Mr Tomoana encouraged Bostock New Zealand Quality Controller, Waiora Tareha to start picking apples three years ago and the young mother has never looked back.
“I got myself off the benefit and into work. With a young daughter to support I didn’t think a permanent job was possible. But I have been able to work school hours and enjoy the benefits of a great career as well as being a mum,” said Ms Tareha.
“I started picking apples at Bostock New Zealand and then moved to quality control, then quality assurance and I am very driven to move my way up through the industry.”
Bostock New Zealand Labour Development & Resource Manager, Vikki Garrett says they really struggled to find enough apple pickers for the Royal Gala harvest this season.
“The labour crisis for us is the worst it’s ever been and the reliability of locals has been a major struggle in 2018. There were also hardly any backpackers. With new planting and more apples we are also very concerned about next season.”
Ms Garrett is pleased Mr Tomoana has teamed up with local growers to encourage more locals to enter the apple industry.
“Our priority is always putting locals first for local jobs. The labour shortage is a serious issue for our industry. We need to work with local Iwi, Education Providers and Government to ensure we have consistent and reliable pickers for the season,” said Ms Garrett.