In a visit to the Bay of Plenty this week for a series of meetings with Tauranga MP Simon Bridges, Nikki Kaye MP for Auckland Central, took time out to visit the kiwifruit industry and meet with ZESPRI employees.
ZESPRI CEO Lain Jager welcomed Nikki and Simon, saying that he “was delighted to host them and is fully supportive of MPs getting closer to industry in order to fully understand the value that is delivered to New Zealand”. Lain was also encouraged by their support for ZESPRI and the industry structure. Simon Bridges reiterated his support for ZESPRI and the industry structure, informing the group that he had shared his personal views with Minister Carter and the Prime Minister.
During discussions with ZESPRI and NZKGI representatives, Simon and Nikki had the opportunity to learn more about the kiwifruit industry, which employs over 20,000 full time and seasonal workers, and contributes approximately 20% to the Bay of Plenty GDP. With over 100 million trays of ZESPRI® Kiwifruit shipped to international markets, ZESPRI’s focus is on high quality kiwifruit, innovation and consumer marketing, to enable premium returns to flow back to growers.
Nikki and Simon also took the opportunity to meet with local kiwifruit growers and to tour a packhouse.
Mahaki Ellis, Chairman of the Ngai Tukairangi Trust and Te Awanui Huka Pak Ltd., voiced his firm support of the SPE to Nikki and Simon, stating that “as a purely commercial operation that supports a large number of Maori workers, any change to the industry eats immediately into the bottom line and I certainly don’t want to see that happen”.
Mahaki explained to Nikki and Simon what business was like under a multi-exporter industry structure prior to the introduction of the SPE and spoke passionately of his concern that a return to those days would signal the demise of the industry and undermine all the hard work put into the orchards by growers.
Simon responded by saying that he understood that the power rests with the growers and that their voices needed to be heard loudly. He encouraged them to talk to other growers. Nikki and Simon both commented on the importance of the kiwifruit industry to the Bay of Plenty as well as to New Zealand as a whole, impressed by current achievements and the potential for the future.
During a short tour of the Te Awanui Huka Pak packhouse, Nikki and Simon were visibly impressed with the scale of the 24 hour operations, the volume of fruit that is moved in a day, employment numbers and the technology employed to grade the fruit.
Te Awanui Huka Pak is amongst the largest single site kiwifruit packhouse with a production potential of over 5 million trays.