Trust not taken lightly

NZ Grower - - Your Levy At Work - Words and pho­tos by Anne Hardie

Re­tir­ing Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand pres­i­dent Ju­lian Raine be­lieves the in­dus­try has shifted into a new space in re­cent years. That’s due to trust in its grow­ers, sys­tems and prod­ucts, and so that trust has to be guarded with care, he said.

He’s spent five-and -a-half years at the helm and steps down at the end of the month to en­able some­one new with fresh ideas and fresh de­ter­mi­na­tion to take on the re­spon­si­bil­ity un­til the next elec­tion in 2020.

Ju­lian has been an in­te­gral part of a flour­ish­ing in­dus­try and said good re­turns haven't hap­pened by chance, but by the work through­out the in­dus­try that has earned trust.

“New Zealand pro­duce is in high de­mand and it's be­cause we have trusted grow­ers and trusted sys­tems and trusted prod­ucts, with that re­flected in the de­mand for our pro­duce in­ter­na­tion­ally - peo­ple are will­ing to pay a pre­mium for that,” he said.

“But we have to guard that with a lot of care be­cause trust is earned over time and it’s lost in an in­stant. We have to

“We couldn't pick our pro­duce now with­out the RSE scheme - near on 13,000 peo­ple who come into the coun­try

I think we work a lot harder than we did for our grow­ers be­fore and we are more ef­fec­tive now.

keep work­ing on that. You can't stand still and you have to keep in­vest­ing.”

Key to that is peo­ple and due to staff short­ages through­out the in­dus­try, he said grow­ers will have to con­sider as­pects such as more flex­i­ble work­ing hours and pos­si­bly creches for work­ing moth­ers to at­tract peo­ple to the in­dus­try. By em­brac­ing di­ver­sity and do­ing things dif­fer­ently, the in­dus­try can in­volve a good cross sec­tion of so­ci­ety from young to old, male and fe­male, all races and dif­fer­ent creeds, he said. It's al­ready hap­pen­ing, he points out, but the in­dus­try needs to en­sure it con­tin­ues.

Work in the in­dus­try will change over time as ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and ro­bot­ics make tasks eas­ier, but much of that tech­nol­ogy is not avail­able to­day and that makes the recog­nised sea­sonal em­ployer (RSE) scheme so im­por­tant.

“We phys­i­cally don't have enough peo­ple to do the work and that's why the RSE scheme is es­sen­tial to get the crop off,” he said.

“We couldn't pick our pro­duce now with­out the RSE scheme - near on 13,000 peo­ple who come into the coun­try - and those peo­ple help sus­tain the per­ma­nent roles we have and even a lot of the ca­sual jobs. I see it as an in­te­gral part of the in­dus­try and sure, ro­bot­ics may re­place some of this over time, but that tech­nol­ogy isn't avail­able to­day or to­mor­row, but more on the five to 10-year hori­zon.” While NZ's hor­ti­cul­ture prod­ucts are in de­mand, the in­dus­try's voice has in­creas­ingly been in de­mand as well in the past few years, partly due to its growth, but also be­cause the in­dus­try has be­come more vo­cal.

“We're heard a lot more now,” he said.

“We were hardly ever in­vited to things and me­dia didn't ring us up, whereas now they do ring us up and they value our opin­ion. We do have a re­spected role in Welling­ton and are re­spected with of­fi­cials and politi­cians alike across a broad spec­trum of de­part­ments and po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sions.

“It's been through a lot of work and the growth of the hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try - we've be­come a lot more rel­e­vant, but also through act­ing sen­si­bly and re­spon­si­bly. We don't shoot from the hip; we try and work with peo­ple and point out the ob­vi­ous some­times. Where we see peo­ple who are right, we say so and where we see they are wrong, we say so. We're a lot more vo­cal and we've earned some re­spect be­cause of the sen­si­bil­ity we bring to some of the dis­cus­sions and ar­gu­ments. I think we work a lot harder than we did for our grow­ers be­fore and we are more ef­fec­tive now.”

He be­lieves the in­dus­try's nat­u­ral re­ac­tion to be up­front and proac­tive on en­vi­ron­ment is­sues has helped earn trust in the hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try as well. Com­pared with other pri­mary in­dus­tries, it works more closely with the com­mu­nity, lit­er­ally, as it em­ploys so many peo­ple per hectare and is of­ten si­t­u­ated along­side ur­ban ar­eas.

“We try and take is­sues on rather than hide them,” he said.

“We put our hand up and have own­er­ship of is­sues. And I think be­cause of that we get more brownie points in our com­mu­ni­ties. The com­mu­nity re­spects peo­ple and in­dus­tries and busi­nesses that say they have a prob­lem and this is what we're do­ing to try and sort it out. If you have a bet­ter way of us sort­ing it out we're all ears. I think that is the hall­mark of the hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try.

“We could do bet­ter though and that's been one of my mantras - we're do­ing well, but we could do bet­ter.”

A con­tin­u­ing frus­tra­tion for the in­dus­try has been the Re­source Man­age­ment Act which Ju­lian said has led to bu­reau­cracy that is non­sen­si­cal at times. Ev­ery­one un­der­stands the in­tent of the act, he be­lieves, but it hasn't moved with the times, and in cases such as dis­charge con­sents and some of the plan­ning rules, there's no logic. If an is­sue goes to court, the only win­ners are the lawyers and that money would be far bet­ter spent on the en­vi­ron­ment, he points out.

“Bu­reau­crats look at a rule and it be­comes very spe­cific and if the de­tail in it doesn't fit the case and they keep look­ing at their rule book to make a de­ci­sion on that and there's lit­tle or no flex­i­bil­ity,” he said.

“You hear so many cases where the pa­per­work and re­source man­age­ment re­quire­ments cost more than the ac­tiv­ity it­self. This is just wasteful.”

Just as frus­trat­ing is the lo­cal body sys­tem in NZ which he la­bels bro­ken. Too many coun­cil­lors who get elected on a hot topic with no knowl­edge of any other ac­tiv­i­ties are then more con­cerned about re-elec­tion than the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process.

“I see it all over NZ with the three Ws - waste­water, fresh wa­ter and stormwa­ter sys­tems that are ar­chaic,” he said.

“You've still got discharges of sewage around the place be­cause they can - they have long-term con­sents. It's in­con­sis­tent and we've got coun­cil­lors who have sat on their hands, warmed the seat and ba­si­cally been in­com­pe­tent for decades. And for the road­ing net­work as well. The whole sys­tem is bro­ken and I'm just point­ing out the ob­vi­ous.”

It will take more than the hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try to change the sys­tem, but he be­lieves peo­ple need to start talk­ing about it to get change.

Go­ing for­ward, Ju­lian said cli­mate change will have far-reach­ing ef­fects on NZ for decades with is­sues such as diesel, fer­tiliser and pes­ti­cides to over­come. So far there's no plan to tackle the emis­sion re­duc­tion tar­gets for 2030 and 2050 or how the hor­ti­cul­ture and food in­dus­tries play their part.

We try and take is­sues on rather than hide them.

One of the things that the in­dus­try does re­ally well though, is adapt, he said. In the past 20 years, new mar­kets and cus­tomers have caused it to adapt dra­mat­i­cally and of­ten quickly to keep pace.

“It’s about un­der­stand­ing what your cus­tomers want, to be more re­cep­tive to their chang­ing de­mands and in some cases fash­ion,” he said.

“We're see­ing changes around eth­nic­ity and what they want, so the fruit and veg­etable va­ri­eties we grew 20 years ago are quite dif­fer­ent to the va­ri­eties we grow now. You’re see­ing the rise and rise of eastern coun­tries and our abil­ity to ser­vice those new mar­kets and cus­tomers.

“I think hor­ti­cul­tur­ists have been re­ally good at adapt­ing to those mar­ket changes and one of the rea­sons for our suc­cess has been adapt­abil­ity. We've moved quickly to those changes, whether it’s a taste pref­er­ence, how it is packed, grade stan­dards and phy­tosan­i­tary re­quire­ments. It’s all of those things and I think we've been highly adapt­able and we've changed quickly to meet the de­mands of new cus­tomers.”

That’s an on­go­ing process and in the fu­ture the rise of mi­cronu­tri­ents to iso­late health ben­e­fits from cer­tain com­pounds, will evolve, he be­lieves. Ex­tracts from foods will be added to reme­dies to as­sist health.

Step­ping down from his HortNZ role will bring more time to be in­volved with his hor­ti­cul­ture crops, though there is al­ways the call for in­volve­ment in in­dus­try mat­ters. He has just been ap­pointed to the Waimea Wa­ter Board, the com­pany cre­ated to con­struct the $100 mil­lion Waimea Com­mu­nity Dam near Nel­son. It’s a project planned for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions and has had a bat­tle through the coun­cil process, but one he said has to suc­ceed.

Suc­cess is some­thing he says the in­dus­try has learnt to cel­e­brate, such as the Bledis­loe

Cup for con­tri­bu­tion to the in­dus­try, the Pres­i­dent's Tro­phy to cel­e­brate in­spir­ing lead­er­ship and this year for the first time, the En­vi­ron­ment Award for work on sus­tain­abil­ity. It has also cel­e­brated 100 years of fruit­grow­ing and he had the op­por­tu­nity to be part of the cel­e­bra­tions around the coun­try, trav­el­ling to places like Et­trick in Otago and Pukekohe in South Auckland where fam­i­lies con­tinue to grow pro­duce a cen­tury af­ter their fore­bears planted their first crops.

The whole sys­tem is bro­ken and I'm just point­ing out the ob­vi­ous.

◀ Ju­lian Raine - New Zealand pro­duce in high de­mand.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.