Awatea new ambassador of kiwifruit

The 2019 Kiwifruit Ambassador Awatea Waaka and runner-up Jazz Rice. Photo: Dave McQinlan.

An 18-year-old with an ambition to become a police officer, and a role model for Maori youth, is 2019’s Kiwifruit Ambassador.

Awatea Waaka won the title from seven other contestants in the revived Kiwifruit Ambassador competition held in Te Puke in August. Runner-up is Papamoa College student Jazz Rice.

Awatea, who is currently a checkout supervisor at the Te Puke Countdown supermarket, grew up and was educated in Te Puke. “I entered because I received a lot of encouragement from friends and co-workers and thought it would be good to challenge myself,” says Awatea, who enjoys the outdoors, including tramping in the Papamoa Hills and climbing Mount Maunganui.

“I love the outdoors and want to encourage other young people to get outside and be active.” Her career goal is to join the police force, “but first I want to travel”.

 The Zespri- sponsored event was organised by promotions group EPIC Te Puke, and Creative Te Puke, to resurrect the Kiwifruit Ambassador competition that lapsed around nine years ago. The 60th anniversary of the re-naming of Chinese gooseberries as kiwifruit by the Turner family was a catalyst for the revival.

Among speakers was Don Turner, former managing director of Turners & Growers, for who attending the event was a trip down memory lane. “It was great to catch up with some of the old growers from No 3 Rd and reminisce. It was also good to see so many people attend the evening and the enthusiasm for the town and the kiwifruit industry. It was a very positive event.”

Don says he also enjoyed meeting current industry leaders, including those from the kiwifruit marketer Zespri. “It is a long time since there has been any ‘biffo’ between Zespri and Turners & Growers,” says Don.

However, there was “no love loss” between T&G and Zespri’s predecessor, the New Zealand Kiwifruit Marketing Board, when it was formed in 1989. That’s when T&G and all other exporters lost the right to export New Zealand kiwifruit. Don says in its first few years the board made a lot of mistakes and Turners & Growers tried to convince the Government to deregulate the industry.

“However, my view now is that without Zespri and NZ Kiwifruit Growers Inc there is no way the industry would have survived kiwifruit vine disease Psa-V or be able to introduce the new gold fruit so quickly. That single industry voice was vital.”

Awatea’s role as Kiwifruit Ambassador will be a learning curve, she says. “I’ve grown up in Te Puke but never worked in the kiwifruit industry. However, I’m looking forward to learning about it and promoting kiwifruit and Te Puke.” She’ll use her social media skills in her ambassador role.

Awatea was sponsored by Z Te Puke, Jazz Rice by Te Puke McDonalds. Other contestants to enter were previous kiwifruit princess, teen ambassador and model Tori Davis, Te Puke High School student Isaac Teki, TPHS student and contemporary dancer Badal Gill, Vector Charitable Trust founder Steve Fawcett, contemporary dancer Larissa Hika, and Stupid Robot Fighting League founder John Espin.


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