More Māori youth set for horticulture sector

By Raniera Harrison

Ngāti Hine are calling for more Māori representation in leadership positions within the horticultural sector.

Horticulture is the country's fourth-largest primary industry, valued at $5.6b annually, and now Ngāti Hine are part of a select few looking to put Māori youth in roles of responsibility.

"I don’t think much of it to be very honest, it’s just my job and I’m doing my job," says Ocean Koro (Ngāpuhi) who is one of the latest cadets to take part in kiwifruit harvesting in the North.

Despite saying that it isn’t much, 20-year-old Koro is one of a handful of Northland youth selected by Ngāti Hine to take on cadet leadership roles at various kiwifruit orchards around the region.

Better yet, she’s exemplifying what the iwi hope other youth can become a part of, "To increase the number of Māori faces working in leadership positions within the horticulture sector," says CEO of Ngāti Hine Forestry, Huhana Lyndon.

The problem, they say, is that the majority of this work is seasonal. 

Now, Māori growers are welcoming last week’s announcement by Minister of Regional Development, Shane Jones to engage more Māori youth in horticultural training nationwide.

"How can we fill the gaps so that our workforce has sustainable employment to work during the winter months, through the summer period as well?," says Lyndon.

Ngāti Hine is working in collaboration with multimillion-dollar fruit exporting company, Seeka. They say that they have over 300 seasonal workers in the Northland packhouse alone. The number of seasonal workers in the orchards is unclear.

"You’ve got people out there who need work, I want to help as much as I can," says Koro.

Ngāti Hine alone are the largest Māori entity involved in kiwifruit in the Northland region, producing approximately 75,000 trays of gold variety kiwifruit annually.

They say the intent is to protect those who are working in the orchards, and numerous packhouses, around the region around the clock.

"Through this new initiative, we’ll be looking to see the voice of the home people," says Lyndon.