Collin set to quit council for key role

By Lawrence Gullery

A Hastings district councillor has been appointed general manager of a major horticultural business in the South Island, prompting his decision not to contest the local government elections in October.

Heretaunga ward councillor Ru Collin is a former director of Horticulture New Zealand and was voted on to the Hastings District Council following the 2010 election.

He plans to leave the council at the end of the current three-year term to head Kono Horticulture, a business in Nelson, which is a subsidiary of Wakatu Incorporated.

The company represents more than 3000 Maori landowners from the Nelson, Tasman and Golden Bay regions.

Wakatu has developed extensive aquaculture, viticulture and wine-making and fruit packing facilities. Its assets are valued at $238 million.

Kono, a word referring to the traditional Maori food basket, was formed in 2011 to provide a co-ordinated approach to offshore selling, group-wide initiatives and external investment.

Councillor Collin said he had a long association with Maori agribusiness through the Wakatu Incorporation, as a former director on one of its earlier initiatives.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to do the things I've always wanted, essentially around forming an amalgam of what the business grows, taking it to the market, providing a supply solution and going into the more discerning markets.

"It is quite a big role in terms of horticulture enterprise and it's exciting, because it's not just about what it's doing now, it's about the potential for it to grow."

Mr Collin is married with three children.

His wife Chan has been involved in advancing Maori business initiatives in the region.

He said the decision to move was not as easy one.

"I am a Hawke's Bay boy and moving to Nelson is a long way to go, but I think I would be foolish not to take up this opportunity.

"I will have to learn some new things, it's not just about growing apples any more.

"I'll have to dust off the text books and learn about growing other things like kiwifruit and hops again."

Mr Collin said he would remain working as a councillor until the end of the term and was committed to his duties in Hastings.

"I've still got some obligations to meet and I am happy to do that."

Mr Collin had worked as PickNZ's Hawke's Bay Labour president.

The organisation was instrumental in sourcing workers for the horticultural industry around the country, which was particularly important during the harvest season in Hawke's Bay, from February to May.

He had let the other Hastings councillors know of his pending departure and his intention not to stand for re-election.

He hoped it would prompt other people in the community to think about putting their hand up to be a councillor.

"I have talked to [mayor] Lawrence Yule and I think the time is right, because we are on the cusp of heading into a new term, and it will give someone who is thinking of standing an opportunity to do that.

"I've enjoyed my time on council and feel the contribution you make is rewarding.

"You certainly don't do it for the money, and you need to be able to accept your view won't always prevail.

"But if you are prepared to talk with people from all walks of life, do the research and reading, and work with staff, then you can make a positive difference."

Nominations for candidates wishing to stand in this year's local authority elections opened on July 19 and close at noon on Friday, August 16.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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