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Good News Stories / July 14, 2022

Helen’s journey from fruit picking to skilled orchard manager

Helen Scott, orchard manager for the Māori Investment Limited (MIL) Whiritoa organic and conventional kiwifruit orchards.

Helen’s journey from fruit picking to skilled orchard manager

Elaine Fisher

Helen Scott’s introduction to the kiwifruit industry came 20 years ago when a neighbour knocked on her door and asked if she wanted to go fruit picking.

Today Helen is orchard manager for the Māori Investment Limited (MIL) Whiritoa organic and conventional kiwifruit orchards in the eastern Bay of Plenty.

It’s a role the solo mother could never have imagined for herself, that first day on the job so long ago.

“I put the kids on the bus to go to Kōhanga Reo [a whānau-led early childhood setting which offers immersion in Te Reo] and went to work on an orchard whose owners were very family orientated,” says Helen. “They allowed me to work when I could with no pressure, which was not common back then. They gave me a place to work and started my journey in the industry.”

Helen, who grew up in the Te Teko area, went on to gain horticultural qualifications, working for EastPack and later, its Prospa orchard management company.

“I managed orchards in different landscapes, learned so much and loved problem solving,” Helen says.

In 2018, she helped train MIL orchard staff, and her talents were instantly recognised by the company’s management.

Kaumātua Rex Anderson, who oversaw the development of Whiritoa organic orchard and today works closely with Helen, speaks highly of her skills.

“Helen has a big ‘E’ for experience and we saw in her the attributes these orchards needed,” Rex says.

The experience Rex speaks of includes Helen’s considerable and growing knowledge of orcharding, organics and the natural environment, and also the life skills and empathy she brings as a mother and employee.

In line with the philosophy of MIL, Helen and Rex actively encourage team members who wish to gain qualifications in horticulture, and to fully understand and take ownership and pride in the work they do.

“I love working here, being supported in my principles and given the opportunity to try new things and to grow as a person,” says Helen. “I have asked others to come to work here because I know they will be valued and given the chance to undertake further training, should they wish.”

Māori Investments Limited began in the 1960s as a tripartite partnership between Tasman Pulp and Paper Mill, the Crown and individual Māori landowners, who all vested land in Tarawera Forest Limited. In turn, each party received shareholding in proportion to the value of land they had contributed.

Significant events have included the subsequent purchase of the entire landholdings by Māori
Investments Limited from Tarawera Forest Limited in 2004, and two forestry rights in place
with Tiaki Plantations Limited
and Kaingaroa Timberlands Limited.

The investment portfolio of Māori Investments Limited now includes agribusiness, high value horticulture including the Whiritoa conventional and organic gold kiwifruit orchards at Te Teko, honey, an investment in a significant tourism asset and a portfolio in bonds and equities.