A Māori collective who have just purchased one of New Zealand's largest kiwifruit portfolios hope to offer their employees a decent wage and opportunities to progress through all levels of the industry.
Three iwi are now the owners of almost 100 canopy hectares of kiwifruit in Te Puke. This large-scale purchase by three North Island iwi includes three Bay of Plenty orchards.
Jeff Rice board member on Te Arawa Group Holdings says, “If all goes well for employment, we just got to try and help our people in terms with jobs and get that hourly rate up.”
When mature, the three blocks are expected to produce up to 1.3 million trays. Chairman of Te Arawa Group Holdings Andrew West says, “We are interested in seeing our people educated and employed not only there but in the pack houses and marketing and all the factors of the industry, we really like to make a contribution to our people.”
The collective is made up of three iwi entities: Te Arawa Group Holdings, Ngāti Awa Group Holdings and Rotomā No1 Incorporations.
“We began this project around about March when the orchard collective of orchards came on the market,” says Mr West.
The orchards have been under foreign ownership for the past 17 years and were sold by tender for an undisclosed sum.
Nelson Miha of Rotomā No1 Incorporations says, “Our focus is working together with Ngāti Awa and Te Arawa Group Holdings. That's what's important to us because we also want to look at working together on other projects as well.”
There are no plans to make any immediate changes to the three separate orchards. However, there is potential to further expand production, which could result in long-term job growth.