Thursday, 15 August 2019 08:20

Respect is the key

Written by  Pam Tipa
Rebecca and Patrick Malley. Rebecca and Patrick Malley.

The first hour on an orchard is more important for a worker’s employment prospects than anything in their life previously, says successful Whangarei grower Patrick Malley.

His family hydroponics berry and kiwifruit business, Maungatapere Berries, believes in giving people a chance.

Northland has massive potential in horticulture to boost the region’s economic base and employment, Malley told Rural News

To provide job opportunities to long-term unemployed people can be a struggle, he says. There’s hard work involved and you have successes and failures.

“But we find there are a couple of key things: respecting people regardless of what their history is, and an employee’s history starts and stops at the front gate. 

“That means that in the first hour someone is on our orchard, their attitude and their application to work are more important to us than their previous years’ job history and any of the challenges they might face in their lives.

“So having that level of respect for who they are and giving them opportunities to succeed rather than continually penalising them gives them the opportunity to do well.”

Another aspect of respect is having a reasonable contract. Rather than casual, weather dependent and on-call seven days, they instead provide workers 40 hours of work, rostered in advance over the work week. 

“We say ‘come rain, hail or shine there will be work ready for you when you turn up for work’. That gives them a lot of confidence and surety.

“When people know they are likely to have enough money to put food on the table it takes away the pressures that affect their lives and enables them to focus on work.

“Then you can start building on the culture, the attitudes and the skills you want after that.”

Maungatapere Berries is tipped to become a model both for horticulture and for employment opportunities under a $2.37 million Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) partnership.

The PGF business loan is targeted to create the first centre for growing excellence in the New Zealand hydroponics horticulture industry.

“We have 45 fulltime staff and 180 casual for nine months of the year,” he told Rural News

The PGF partnership will enable Maungatapere Berries to double its fulltime workforce over the next five to eight years and to develop the first phase of a high-tech education, training and employment operation, as part of Maungatapere Berries’ 20ha hydroponic orchard expansion.

NZ’s next fruit and vege bowl?

Northland has massive untapped potential in horticulture, says Patrick Malley.

“One of the greatest things about horticulture careers is you can start your training and learning on the job,” he said. 

“You don’t need to get a degree, even though there is a huge amount of knowledge and experience required to be good at it. You can start from day dot, you can get a job and start getting paid. You can earn and learn at the same time.”

Northland has a lot of unemployment. 

“Generally speaking those people actually prefer to work with their hands than sit in front of a desk. And one of the great values of horticulture is you can see the results of your work at the end of the day,” Malley told Rural News.

He points out that dairy or sheep and beef have a low level of fulltime employment per hectare, whereas avocados need 0.5 employees per hectare and kiwifruit closer to one employee per hectare.

“Hydroponics provides closer to eight fulltime equivalent jobs per hectare. When you look at those numbers and you look at return on investment per hectare it is no wonder people are turning land that maybe not suitable for different types of agriculture into high value horticulture,” he says. 

“Horticulture in general – whether it be traditional or hydroponics – is there permanently and because you are growing plants that require a healthy environment sustainability is at the core of what you do.

More like this

Virtual CV valuable tool

With a 12-year history of recruiting specialised operators from overseas to service the agricultural contracting industry, Hanzon Jobs typically brings in around 200 people to New Zealand each year from the UK and Ireland.

Time for action — Editorial

OPINION: It's time for some real and fast action around allowing more seasonal workers into the country to help power NZ’s all-important agricultural and horticultural sectors.

Lack of labour

New Zealand kiwifruit growers are nervous about having enough people to work in the industry during the coming months, according to grower organisation NZKGI.

Vets in short supply

Julie South, whose company VetStaff specialises in recruiting veterinarians, says there is a shortage of vets in New Zealand and that this has been compounded by Covid-19.

National

Job losses worry meat sector

New Zealand's meat processing industry says, while it supports moves away from coal, it has some major concerns about cuts…

Manawatu's economy bouncing back

Although the national economy is still functioning below pre-pandemic levels and the road ahead remains uncertain, the Manawatu region appears…

Machinery & Products

Real handy in all situations

Listening to customers across all sectors of agriculture helps the Handypiece team design and engineer options to make its unit…

Film binding now available

The Kuhn VBP 3100 series variable chamber baler-wrapper combination can now be equipped with the patented Kuhn Twin-reel film binding…

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Great idea

OPINION: Your old mate has long argued Landcorp’s farming business – Pamu – is a bigger dog than he is.

Unemployable?

OPINION: Your canine crusader shakes his head at the complete lack of practical and real-world knowledge in both government and…

» Connect with Rural News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter