Ruatoria Pies roll out Level 3 expansion

By Taroi Black

Iconic Ruatoria Pies bounces back from a five-week lockdown and how the whānau business has survived COVID-19.

The wholesale manufacturer bakery and pastry business owned by Pakanui Webb and his wife Bobbi Morice appreciated the Government wage subsidy. This ensured their seven kaimahi could have an income despite having no mahi.

Ruatoria Pies owners Bobbi Morice and husband Pakanui Webb - Photo / File

“If we probably didn’t have that we probably have to lay our staff off,” Webb says.

This fourth-generation whānau business has survived the Great Depression, World War 2 and now they're battling through COVID-19.

However, during the 2008 Global Financial Crisis Ruatoria Pies were forced to lay off all of their workers for three months. To fill in the gaps they asked their nieces and siblings to help out which has kept the dough rolling out and income flowing in.

At the crack of dawn this morning, some of their seven kaimahi came back to open up shop. The pastry was rolled out, pie mince stewed away and orders were filled.

The second lot of kaimahi will come back for the evening shift and prepare to pack this morning's orders for tomorrow's delivery trucks.

Due to Alert Level Three safety measures, they will only supply rural Tairāwhiti for the next two weeks. After that, Gisborne, Te Karaka and Whakatāne pie lovers will be able to buy Ruatoria pies locally.

Ruatoria pies are loved by Ruatorians across the world, so it’s no surprise that this Tairāwhiti business bakes 300,000 pies a year with Xmas being their busiest season. This worldwide demand for pies has prompted the business to pursue online ordering options.

“We don’t want to rush our clients in Gisborne, we don’t know what’s going to happen. If everyone behaves, people can come out of it and we don’t want to go back into Level 4.”

Ikaroa Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri told Te Ao Māori News the way we now do trade is going to change because of COVID-19. 

"One way we can up the sale is e-commerce, putting our business online. A lot of businesses are taking that up and I want to encourage our small businesses to do that. Not just because of this state, of this pandemic but it's a smart way to do business when we're out of it," MP Whaitiri says.