It started off as a small seed but a programme between T&G and the Ministry of Social Development is proving to bloom into success.

The SEED programme has been running for the past eight years in Hawke's Bay and is about breaking the cycle of unemployment and getting locals back into work.

More than 1000 people work at T&G during the peak season including those on the SEED programme, local workers and seasonal workers from overseas.

Orchard Labour Manager Maurice Windle said workers in the programme are often from Work and Income and the hiring team make sure the workers are supported and cared for.


"We nurture them into full time roles and we give them the pathway with all the learning and development, we also do healthcare and dental care. We basically take care of anything that gets in the way of them getting to work. Examples could be court fines or financial problems, we help to find solutions around all that.

"Whatever the person needs we just try and facilitate some sort of pathway to help them."

While the programme is based mainly in Hawke's Bay, Windle said T&G was trying to expand it out across New Zealand.

"We started the programme because of the RSEs (overseas workers) and we weren't doing enough for New Zealanders, so we rolled it out across our whole business. Without our people we can't grow fruit."

One of the beneficiaries of SEEDs, Reef Poutu has been in the programme for nearly a year and a half and accepted a full time role with T&G last week.

"She started off working flexible hours and now she's been given a full time role in one of our orchards."

Poutu said she was pulled aside for the SEEDS programme and hasn't looked back since.

"We got looked after, in the ways of being given free healthcare checks all the way up to dental. I passed level three in horticulture and they supported us with that, as you just get to learn on the job."


Poutu said the fruit industry was the last place she thought she'd end up, but said it was the best choice she's ever made.

"I was a revolving door for Work and Income, when T&G came in, I told them I was a solo parent so I was able to work flexible hours so I was able to go and care for my children.

"They really didn't make it a big issue whereas I found other employers did find it an issue."

Last year T&G was recognised as a top employer at the Primary Industry Awards at Parliament in November last year, with the SEEDS programme one of the major contributing factors.

"Attracting and keeping hard-working talent is a significant challenge in our industry and we recognise those exceptional employers who are committing to good employment practices such as training, paying and treating staff well," Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said.