Sus­tain­able work­force will be of ben­e­fit to all

As a grower and con­sul­tant Tim Egan has for years been aware of the two-edged prob­lem of pro­duc­ers not be­ing able to get enough staff in the busy sea­son, and there not be­ing enough work for lo­cal work­ers in the down times.

The Orchardist - - Careers -

Adding the voices of other grow­ers and in­ter­ested par­ties, that led to the foun­da­tion of the Tairawhiti Labour Gover­nance Group that helped for­mu­late the num­ber of RSE (Reg­is­tered Sea­sonal Em­ployer) work­ers the re­gion is al­lowed to tap into.

But that's a short-term fix and in terms of the long-term, he be­lieves that in forg­ing a so­lu­tion, Gis­borne faces dif­fer­ent chal­lenges than many other re­gions.

“You have places like the Bay of Plenty which is well or­gan­ised around ki­wifruit, and Hawke's Bay where they have a lot of pipfruit, so those are well-de­fined sea­sons and there is lots of ca­pa­bil­ity in or­gan­is­ing labour re­quire­ments,” he says.

“But here in Gis­borne we grow ap­ples, ki­wifruit, grapes, persimmons, macademias, citrus – just about ev­ery crop un­der the sun – plus lots of veg­eta­bles, corn and maize, so we have a very di­verse hor­ti­cul­tural land­scape and that's tough for one per­son or group to get their heads around.”

The ap­point­ment of Raw­inia Parata as Tipu co-or­di­na­tor will help bring all the in­for­ma­tion to­gether, says Egan.

“So the scope or aim of that role is to try to talk to all the par­ties in­volved and come up with some strate­gies to meet grow­ers' needs while also get­ting lo­cal peo­ple into the work­force, and to un­der­stand what the fu­ture re­quire­ments might be.”

Sup­port­ing Parata's role is a part­ner­ship be­tween Gis­borne grow­ers, the Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment (MSD) and Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand, with sup­port­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions like the In­dus­try Train­ing Or­gan­i­sa­tion and the Eastern In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy.

“There was an ap­point­ment com­mit­tee made up of my­self, Karen Bartlett (MSD), Wayne Hall (Wi Pere Trust) and Ta­nia Kearns (River­sun) and be­tween the four of us we act in an ad­vi­sory role in help­ing achieve the aims of Tipu . . . to de­velop a skilled and sus­tain­able labour force in the Tairawhiti hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try,” he says.

“It’s a big ask but this project has ma­jor im­pli­ca­tions not just for in­dus­try, but also for our com­mu­nity as a whole.” could play a big­ger role in pro­mot­ing ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties within their in­dus­tries.

But as it stands, Parata says grow­ers of­ten don't take a col­lec­tive ap­proach in terms of meet­ing their labour needs so there is an el­e­ment of com­pe­ti­tion in se­cur­ing good work­ers, she says.

“My aim is to get an ac­cu­rate un­der­stand­ing of what the in­dus­try re­quires in terms of em­ploy­ees and what the em­ploy­ees need to get into the work­force, and that is not some­thing you can un­der­stand from statis­tics alone.”

An ideal re­sult would be the cre­ation of a 12-month cal­en­dar show­ing all pro­duc­tion cy­cles over the course of a year, she says, en­abling the di­rec­tion of sea­sonal work­ers from job to job and thereby of­fer­ing them year-round em­ploy­ment.

“Get­ting there will be a big job . . . I al­ready have 298 grow­ers on my list to talk to and that doesn't in­clude grape grow­ers.

“But by do­ing that de­tailed work you have the po­ten­tial to cre­ate say 500 full-time roles, to re­place the some­times piece­meal work that is avail­able now, and that would be a big win for every­one.”

Some of those win­ner will be grow­ers, who Parata hopes will be less wary of in­vest­ing in train­ing as work op­por­tu­ni­ties get more or­gan­ised and more reg­u­lar.

“A co-or­di­nated ap­proach that offers year-round em­ploy­ment means a worker can go from be­ing say, a novice pruner to a spe­cial­ist, and as long as they con­tinue to be en­gaged and re­li­able, that makes them an as­set to the in­dus­try.

“What is re­quired is that peo­ple in the in­dus­try say 'yes, we will invest in our work­ers' and, as worker well­be­ing has a direct im­pact on pro­duc­tiv­ity, we are con­fi­dent they will reap the re­wards.”

Get­ting that mes­sage across is a vi­tal part of the co-or­di­na­tor's role and Raw­inia Parata well placed to do that.

Brought up in the East Coast set­tle­ment of Ru­a­to­ria, she went to Welling­ton to study com­mu­ni­ca­tions grad­u­ate and later took on roles in­clud­ing cam­paign man­age­ment for then-Min­is­ter of Par­lia­ment Hekia Parata and com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mar­ket­ing po­si­tions with Te Tumu Paeroa (The Maori Trus­tee) and Te Wananga o Aotearoa.

“That sort of work re­ally brings it home how im­por­tant it is that peo­ple truly un­der­stand the ma­te­rial. If they don't, then you sim­ply aren't com­mu­ni­cat­ing.”

What she also learned is how many hoops there are to jump through to get mean­ing­ful projects off the ground.

“That means it can be chal­leng­ing to de­velop new pro­grammes but it is def­i­nitely pos­si­ble. So part of my role will be to un­der­stand what train­ing is out there for work­ers and em­ploy­ers to tap into and what is be­ing de­vel­oped, that way we can look at what might be needed in terms of fu­ture re­quire­ments.

“For work­ers it does help to have that bit of paper, that qual­i­fi­ca­tion, as it tells em­ploy­ers that not only can you do a job, but that you are com­mit­ted to it. And I think that ev­ery or­gan­i­sa­tion on the East Coast that pro­vides train­ing can have a part to play.”

So while Tipu will be good for grow­ers, Parata says it also takes a wider com­mu­nity ap­proach that will be great for em­ploy­ees.

“There is a lack of se­cu­rity in sea­sonal work that doesn't make it easy for fam­i­lies,” she says.

“I couldn't func­tion not know­ing how much I am go­ing to be paid from week to week, and nei­ther should they. It is about sus­tain­abil­ity and strength, for both in­dus­try and the re­gion as a whole.”

To learn about or con­trib­ute to Tipu, con­tact Raw­inia Parata at tairawhiti­hort@gmail.com.

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