The Ministry of Social Development and Miro Limited Partnership, a Maori-owned berry fruit company have launched a new partnership.

With funding from the ministry, Miro, which is owned by more than 20 Maori trusts, iwi and entities across Northland, Bay of Plenty, East Coast, Taranaki and Nelson/Marlborough, has launched its employment and training programme.

Miro aims to build a global export berry fruit business, owned and run by Maori, on Maori-owned land, using new horticultural technologies and intellectual property.

Ministry funding will support the employment and training of up to 40 staff on Miro orchards during the next 12 months.

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Willie Jackson, Minister of Employment and associate minister for Maori development, attended and spoke at the launch, hosted yesterday afternoon by Ngati Haua at the iwi's Rukumoana Marae in Morrinsville.

"In towns like Gisborne, Opotiki, Whakatane, Motueka, and Kaitaia, this could be a truly transformative opportunity. We want to raise employment across those communities and place Maori in the role of business leadership with all the social and economic benefits that become possible when people get the chance to use their whenua to gain self-determination."

More than 20ha of orchard developments are planned in the next 12 months and the Miro landowners and developers will need everything from labourers through to horticultural managers.

The programme covers pre-employment training, employment placement, industry specific training, pastoral care, relocation services, employment subsidy and some additional services.

Miro director Steve Saunders said: "In simple terms, Miro is aiming to build a berry exporter every bit as successful as Zespri. We will own the value chain end to end.

"Over the next nine years Miro will need more than 100 skilled orchard managers, create more than 5000 jobs, plant 500ha of berries, return more than $100 million in revenue to growers per annum, and inject more than $500m in to local economies.

"We're not talking about berries being sold on the side of the road. We're talking about sophisticated horticultural development selling premium berries in to sophisticated markets across Asia and Australia."

Miro chairman Rukumoana Schaafhausen said: "We want to create sustainable jobs for whanau on our land, and upskill them in horticulture, fruit production, and owning their own business."

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Jackson said it was "terrific" to see hapu and iwi taking the initiative to link employers and potential employees.

"It's regional economic development in action."