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Creating Local Jobs To Boost The Eastern Bay’s Prosperity

Creating Local Jobs To Boost The Eastern Bay’s Prosperity

Creating permanent jobs in the Eastern Bay of Plenty for local residents is no easy task.

Agriculture, horticulture and forestry are the dominant industries but technology and innovation is helping these sectors become more productive while requiring less physical labour.

The Eastern Bay of Plenty Regional Economic Development Trust (which is known as Toi-EDA), is working hard to overcome this challenge and create long-term employment opportunities in Kawerau, Opotiki and Whakatane.

Trust Chairman John Galbraith says the Eastern Bay is “unfortunately one of the most deprived areas in the country across a range of socio-economic factors.” But the region has great potential given its location, climate, strong Maori asset base and availability of land.

Toi-EDA chairman John Galbraith

Aquaculture, tourism and kiwifruit are regarded as “job rich” industries which Toi-EDA is focusing on.

The Trust works closely with the Bay of Plenty’s wider economic development agency (Bay of Connections) to investigate and implement strategies that will boost long-term job prospects across a range of industries.

John says the ongoing development of a mussel farm off the coast of Opotiki is forecast to generate over 300 jobs by the time it’s fully operational in 2025. And the kiwifruit industry’s future also looks bright – with rapid expansion predicted over the next decade.

Combining Workforces

With that in mind, Toi-EDA is leading a workforce development project to see what opportunities can be maximized for local residents across these two industries.

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“Kiwifruit employs about 1800 people in the Eastern Bay during peak harvest time but only 100 or so people fulltime during the year,” John explains. “That’s very challenging for developing a good workforce and the industry relies quite heavily on immigrant labour and itinerant backpackers.

Toi-EDA’s workforce planning project will look to combine the kiwifruit and aquaculture industry’s workforces

“Aquaculture has a different seasonal requirement to kiwifruit and there’s an opportunity to bring those two together so we have a more permanent workforce across both industries because there are similarities.”

Toi-EDA’s workforce planning project will help more local residents secure work in the aquaculture industry

Maintenance staff, forklift operators, process operators and management are required for both industries and many common skills are involved. “There’s also some amount of complementary seasonality. As the mussel season tapers off, that’s about the time the kiwifruit harvest starts.”

Groundwork Being Laid

Initial research into both industries has already been carried out. Now, Toi-EDA has engaged community consultant Barbara MacLennan, who has previously managed the aquaculture workforce planning project, to carry out ‘phase two’. She will assemble and combine the current information to see what skills, people and training is required, and what timing and seasonality is involved.

“The idea is to then match the training requirements against the current providers to see what opportunities or gaps there are,” John explains.

An overall workforce development plan will be produced and key stakeholders (such as aquaculture and kiwifruit employers, iwi, community organisations and training providers) will be consulted. “We’re hoping that will lead on to an agreed structure to implement it.”

Financial Support

Phase two is expected to take up to 18 months to complete and cost approximately $80,000. BayTrust will contribute $30,000 towards that amount, and the rest will be sought from Government departments, private companies and Toi-EDA itself.

“Without BayTrust we would have struggled to get this project off the ground,” John says. “Now with this cornerstone funding from BayTrust, we’re confident the rest will fall into place quite quickly.”

One key aspect of the workforce development plan will be to outline ‘staircase’ opportunities for young students to enter the two industries and progress their career.

“The more we can connect with secondary school students and show them there are valid, long-term employment opportunities in these industries, the more likely we are to attract them into the necessary training along the way.”

Keeping Jobs Local

John says if nothing was done, both the aquaculture and kiwifruit industries would still function but local residents were likely to miss out.

“We’re trying to maximise the opportunity for local people regarding employment and development to help promote the wealth and wellbeing of our whole district.”


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