Free kiwifruit industry training courses are now on offer across the Bay of Plenty, after starting on June 22. The Government announced last month that up to $200,000 is being invested into kiwifruit training programmes to help the industry provide employment opportunities.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says this will help people into work, and meet urgent seasonal demand in the sector.
“We know that people have lost their jobs because of Covid-19 and there is significant and urgent demand for trained workers in the horticulture sector,” says O’Connor.
“During lockdown the kiwifruit industry provided a lifeline for a number of displaced workers from industries such as tourism, forestry and hospitality.
“We want to continue to connect people with jobs in horticulture, and more broadly in the primary industries, because we know these sectors will be key to our economic recovery.”
NZKGI CEO Nikki Johnson says the training courses are a win-win for both the industry and the people employed.
“NZKGI is very pleased to work with the Ministry for Primary Industries to train winter pruners for kiwifruit orchards,” says Nikki.
“While the industry should gain at least 60 people to support winter pruning, the employment will also be beneficial for the individuals.”
People in the industry have recognised the need for education and training for a long time, with many trusts and organisations establishing their own programmes to meet the need. This includes Te Whānau ā Apanui Fruit Growers Sustainable Labour Initiative.
Te Kaha 15B executive chairman Norm Carter, who was instrumental in the establishment of the initiative, says the new government-funded training programmes are welcomed.
“Funding has been our main struggle when it comes to providing education for our people, so the Government making free courses available is a very positive thing.”
There will be two free courses available, starting with a one-day taster, followed by an optional, more intensive course in winter pruning. Participants will receive certification for both courses.
Those who complete the intensive training will be encouraged to seek work as winter pruners on kiwifruit orchards.
This is the first initiative to be funded from the $19.3 million allocated in the 2020 Budget to help recently-unemployed New Zealanders into training programmes in the next four years.
A press release from Minister O’Connor says indicative figures show kiwifruit businesses have employed around 70 per cent New Zealanders, with some businesses employing up to 90 per cent, compared to approximately 50 per cent last season.
Due to privacy reasons, NZKGI can’t disclose which businesses have employed up to 90 per cent of Kiwis.
PM visits packhouse
Following the announcement, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visited Trevelyan’s packhouse in Te Puke on the first day of NZ being in alert level 1.
For her visit, the Prime Minister talked to workers about their experience working in kiwifruit, took a tour of the packhouse, and addressed media.
“We are visiting the kiwifruit industry today as an acknowledgement of the huge work they’ve undertaken to keep going through Covid-19, and the importance of us working together,” said the PM.
Trevelyan’s managing director James Trevelyan says the visit was “an honour”. “It was a great day. Not only did we get to show the Prime Minister what we’ve been doing, but it’s the last packing day of the season and the first day of Alert Level 1 – a relief for many.”
Free kiwifruit training information at: https://www.nzkgi.org.nz/winter-pruning/#article