HortNZ is speaking with younger people in the industry to see what they have been up to during the COVID-19 lockdown. This week we interview Summer Wynyard, the recently appointed Student Liaison at New Zealand Apples and Pears Inc.
Kia ora koutou katoa, my name is Summer Wynyard, and I am the Student Liaison at New Zealand Apples and Pears Inc. My role is to work with education providers to develop resources and pathways to help educate and support youth, students and unemployed people into our industry. I’m based in Hastings and will be working mainly in the Hawkes Bay, Gisborne and other major horticulture regions.
Who’s in your bubble?
In my bubble, I’ve got six people in the same house as me, and another six people from the house behind us. We’re surrounded by whanau. Right at the beginning of lockdown, our two houses decided to merge bubbles to help support each other. This was especially important because we have six children between us – three of them less than three years old.
Summer Wynyard is in her last semester of study at Massey University, but has already started working for NZ Apples and Pears Inc as a student liaison.
What have you been doing in the lockdown?
In our house (my dad’s) we’ve got three people, including myself, that have been working from home. We don’t have a dedicated office or study, so it’s just been us in the lounge/dining room. You can imagine with screaming kids running around or the teenagers blasting their music, or anyone using the kitchen that it became very challenging – especially if one of us was on a Zoom call!
Where I live currently, we’re also surrounded by orchards, a marae, veggie growers and some grazing livestock. A lot of my free time was spent getting out of the house with my siblings and exploring those areas on our daily walk. It was cool because we’ve lived here all our lives and yet, we don’t make the time to really get to know our backyards, so I have to say that throughout this lockdown I’m very fortunate for those experiences.
What do you think are the industry’s major challenges with COVID-19?
We’ve got a few challenges that have resulted from this COVID-19 crisis. Some big issues include the closure of independent retailers and growers’ financial hardships due to crops being left on the tree.
A major issue, however, at the moment is the uncertainty surrounding our labour force for the next subsequent seasons. Our RSE workers, who come from Pacific Island nations, comprise a huge chunk of our labour particular during our harvest period when they thin and pick the fruit. They’re currently still in New Zealand, but when they go back home, there is massive uncertainty as to whether or not we’ll get them back because they may not want to come back after being away from their families for so long, or due to border restrictions.
Not having our RSE workers next season, and any subsequent season after, is going to bring challenges from getting the trees set up for harvest, to getting all the fruit off the trees at harvest time.
What do you think the opportunities might be, once we’re further through COVID-19?
A massive opportunity is the chance to bring more New Zealanders into the horticulture industry and specifically our pipfruit sector. With the forecasted labour gap, there is an opportunity to support kiwis to find work in our industry. We can do this by looking at the skills that unemployed kiwis have and trying to align roles that fit those skills, or by upskilling kiwis to help support them into work in our industry.
In 2019, Summer Wynyard (Left) and Leander Archer (right) participated in the International Horticulture Immersion Program (IHIP) which took them to Europe and South Korea.
Any ideas about what the rest of 2020 will bring for you? Any plans around work or study, or it is too early to tell, given current uncertainties?
I started working with New Zealand Apples and Pears as an intern in December 2019, working on a mapping biosecurity project. That project is ongoing but I will be focused on my main role as the Student Liaison for the next 6 to 12months. I’m also in my last semester at Massey University where I’m studying towards a Bachelor of AgriScience majoring in Horticulture. Fortunately for me Massey is well set up for online learning so assuming all goes well and I pass my papers, I will graduate later in the year!
Anything else that you would like to add?
I hope everybody has been able to find enjoyment where they can during this lockdown period. Continue to stay safe everyone!