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.”