Change and success through kaitiakitanga

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As a collective, Tūhono Whenua Horticulture aims to grow leadership, capability, and support services for Māori across the horticulture industry. Their latest project Ka Matau, Ka Ora, led by Stacey Mareroa-Roberts, has demonstrated that systems change with action.

“The project followed a prior initiative which focused on increasing the productivity of 20 collectively-owned Māori kiwifruit orchards through benchmarking, monitoring and hands-on advisory services,” Stacey explains.

“This time we went deeper, with a focus to bridge the critical gap of a lack of Māori in key leadership roles within horticulture, specifically the kiwifruit industry. We achieved this through strategic workforce and leadership development in collaboration with several Māori trusts, industry leaders, and participants seeking qualifications, experience, and employment.”

COVID-19 highlighted horticulture as an essential industry and put a spotlight on the desperate need for local labour and work safety. As entire industries shut down, workers were redirected to kiwifruit orchards to assist with harvest kiwifruit for export. This demonstrated the essential nature of the industry as a critical aspect of the primary industry but also for the New Zealand economy.

Stacey says that the most important benefit from the project has been a greater insight into pathways for young Māori into work placement within the horticultural sector, enhanced by skill-building qualifications as a normal component of their work setting.

Key issues such as a shortage of competent orchard managers, transport to and from work, consistency of showing up to work, lack of full-time employment, pay rates, money management and substance control were identified. This was followed by a Kaupapa Māori training pathway, with an emphasis on wraparound pastoral support services. It was considered this support would lead to improved capability and greater performance on the orchards.

“The project’s findings confirm that by investing in the capability of our people and working in tandem with our land, a willingness for change arises. By planting small, meaningful seeds of positive action, an environment was created where people, orchards and the industry can thrive,” says Stacey.

“There is a unique window of opportunity now to integrate meaningful and culturally appropriate learning into horticultural practice. Cultural competency can be built, in a fit for purpose way, and delivered amongst all people in the industry.”

Find the full report on Ka Matau, Ka Ora and all details around the actions taken over 2017- 2020 on the website