Update from Richard Palmer 7 April 2021

This is my final Prunings as chief executive; Kate Hellstrom will be on deck from next week and I will be assisting her with the transition. My 15 months has been a pretty eventful one – a far cry from where I started – with the Summerfruit NZ team and Board working incredibly hard to achieve results for you, our members, over this period of significant disruption and change, across the world.

A few outcomes stand out as highlights for me: the airlift of over 1,000 Ni-Vanuatu RSE workers home mid-last year; the work with MPI and MoT to secure airfreight support over our export season; and the Handpicked seasonal labour campaign. These reflect the varied work we do, but most importantly reflect the relationships we forge and maintain to make a difference for our growers, packers and exporters, and other stakeholders.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed engaging with growers right across the country and hearing your perspectives, although sadly, actual visits were few and far between. Some have directly assisted Summerfruit NZ and I thank them for their contribution: Stephen Darling as chair of Apricot Co, whose efforts have paid off with the recent grower commitment to the cooperative; and Michael Jones, whose thoughtful and considered perspective has been invaluable in the seasonal labour sub-committee.

Likewise I’ve enjoyed working alongside government agencies, notably MPI, MoT and MSD, other Product Groups and Horticulture New Zealand. I’m especially grateful for the leadership that Mike Chapman and his team provided throughout the pandemic response, and the progress all sector groups have made in support of the horticulture sector.

I’d like to offer my thanks to the Board, ably led by Tim Jones, who has been supportive and responsive during my term. As chair he put in a huge effort last year to assist with our workplan and providing practical advice on the matters most crucial to the sector. Tim was an excellent sounding board and source of advice for me and has been a tremendous champion for our sector – thank you Tim for your willing ear and tireless efforts. Trudi Webb and Craig Hall have also made decisive contributions during my tenure, for which I am heavily indebted: Trudi in the Central Otago labour work, and Craig as chair of the Summerfruit Exporters Council.  

My biggest thanks goes to the Summerfruit NZ team: Andrea, Victoria, Anna, Richard, and latterly Tracey, for their dedication, perseverance, and patience with my remote working situation. Your commitment shone through last year in the effort to deliver real outcomes for growers, in areas new and unfamiliar that proved no barrier, as we set out to achieve the objectives and support the sector. This team, with support from Jack Hughes at Fruition and the Market Access Solutionz team, have not only achieved a huge amount for the sector, but done so in an easygoing, yet professional and steady manner. I know they will continue to do so for Kate.

Despite being in Canberra I will be, Covid permitting, back in New Zealand frequently and do hope to catch up with some of you, perhaps on the ski fields later in the year.

Noho ora mai,