[22 February/Radio New Zealand]

Catriona White, recipient of New Zealand’s top sustainable farming award, states she would like to see more kiwifruit orchardists employ their staff full-time. Mrs White, who along with her husband Mark White were the first horticulturalists to win the Gordon Stephenson trophy, which gets awarded to one of the 11 regional winners in the annual Farm Environment Awards. Mr and Mrs White have an organic kiwifruit orchard in Ōpōtiki and employ their two staff for a 40 hour week regardless of whether the weather allows them to work that time or not. Mrs White states that in order to prevent spreading of the vine killing disease PSA, work on kiwifruit vines stops when the vines are wet or it is raining. Mrs White explains that looking after their staff, means that they take more care in their work, and that limiting their pay could impact hugely on their livelihood as it is not their fault the weather prevents them working. Mr and Mrs White employ backpackers or use a contractor from time to time if they need extra hands. They report that they are careful that the contractor is paying his staff correctly. The kiwifruit industry currently has a shortage of workers, and has been criticised for not providing career pathways and work opportunities that are full-time.