Day two – Kick the dirt

Next morning, it was up early to have a military-style cooked breakfast while the wild wind kicked up an impressive crashing of waves outside of the haven provided by Mt Maunganui’s Ocean Sports Club.

Over their breakfasts, the conference participants were offered points of view from Barry O’Neill, of Kiwifruit Vine Health about why the organisation works with the Port of Tauranga. This was followed by Steve Gilbert, director of border clearance services.

The rest of the day was packed with seeing new sights, getting onto normally off-limits areas, getting behind the scenes, learning from the top, sharing grower stories and even sampling a new kiwifruit variety. All this was done in style with the orange fluro vests provided by MG Marketing, so no-one could hide in the background – even if they wanted to.

Bay of Plenty hosts did their region proud and welcomed all visitors with open arms. Behind the security gates and from the safety of their buses, everyone was spellbound at the Port of Tauranga, where they got up close to the jaw dropping size of the port’s container straddles.

Such experiences are offered only rarely to the outsiders, and the brilliant sunshine played its part and the port-side adventure made a spectacular encounter. They should have asked a quiz question to guess how many logs were on the wharf that morning – people were stunned at the sight of the piles of logs that seemed to have no end.

Next stop was a bracing morning tea, due to the cool wind, at Plant & Food Research’s Te Puke site.

Here we had talks by scientists, Te Puke operations manager, Stuart Kay and avocado specialist, Zac Hanley. Zac talked about avocado production work in progress by the combined forces of Plant & Food Research (Te Puke), Waikato University and NZ Avocado.

Leaving the comfort of the lecture room, Stuart Tustin held a talk among kiwifruit vines, where it was interesting to see the orchard’s artificial canopy construction.

Back on the buses, and it was a short ride to a kiwifruit industry leader, Trevelyan’s Pack and Cool. In small groups we were taken around the site to learn first-hand how the company runs things in its own uncompromising ways – with a lot of heart and soul, and devotion to staff well-being as a major component in their ongoing success. The management’s caring relationship with domestic and overseas workers is a legacy to be proud of.

Trevelyan’s management team are never afraid of ‘looking under some pretty big rocks’, and that encompasses everything including staff welfare, sustainability, social media or any matter a grower and packer may face.

Last stop of the day was with honey producer and product manufacturer, Comvita in nearby Paengaroa, who welcomed the summerfruit gang for a late afternoon talk. Many took advantage of the chance to purchase some of Comvita’s speciality products.