Cul­ture club

Idealog - - FOOD FIGHT -

While the hor­ti­cul­tural sec­tor is a cru­cial part of Tau­ranga’s econ­omy, Ngaria Rolle­ston, the com­mu­ni­ca­tions and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment man­ager for Te Awanui, wants more Maori to get into it – and el­e­vate them into po­si­tions higher up the value chain within those busi­nesses.

Te Awanui is a Maori-trust owned com­pany that has in­ter­ests in hor­ti­cul­ture, dairy and sheep and beef, among other ar­eas, and Rolle­ston says she’s work­ing to change the idea that hor­ti­cul­ture is a low-skilled ca­reer for Maori to en­ter.

“Gen­er­ally speak­ing, there’s low aware­ness of the vast ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties that ex­ist,” she says. “There’s a big mis­con­cep­tion that hor­ti­cul­ture’s for the ‘dumb kids’ and con­sists of pack­ing, is a mo­not­o­nous rou­tine, and is low-paid type work. What we’re aimed at do­ing is try­ing to cre­ate aware­ness of all the dif­fer­ent op­por­tu­ni­ties that ex­ist within the hor­ti­cul­ture sec­tor by stim­u­lat­ing in­ter­est and chan­nelling path­ways.”

Te Awanui works with the likes of Plant and Food Re­search, Ze­spri and Seeka, as well as lo­cal col­leges to cre­ate pro­grammes and path­ways to get more Maori into the sec­tor.

Rolle­ston says al­though Maori make up about 15 per­cent of the Tau­ranga pop­u­la­tion, they are gen­er­ally un­der­rep­re­sented in all lev­els of the pri­mary and hor­ti­cul­ture sec­tor. But, most im­por­tantly, her goal is to get more Maori into high-level po­si­tions in ar­eas such as sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy and post-har­vest.

“We don’t want them to be grow­ers, we want them to be man­agers. We want to see Maori sit­ting at the board­room ta­ble of Seeka and Ze­spri,” Rolle­ston says.

“We want more Maori at the cut­ting-edge of tech­nol­ogy in the sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy in­dus­tries. We want more Maori get­ting bach­e­lor level and higher ed­u­ca­tion so it lifts the whole sec­tor.”

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