Now in his final year at EIT, bachelor of recreation and sport student Roman Roberts is educating seasonal workers about more than fruit.

Roberts has initiated a specially tailored fitness programme to help staff avoid work-related injuries, and began his practicum with T&G in February. He works with a group of 15 men from Vanuatu in a company-owned apple orchard, close to Havelock North.

He always pictured his career path in the health sector and has already got off to a flying start with the programme.

"Given the statistics for Māori and Pasifika communities, I wanted to get out information about the benefits of eating well, daily exercise and just general knowledge about the benefits of being healthy and fit. That's the pathway I wanted to take with my degree."

Some of the seasonal workers have returned to Hawke's Bay to assist T&G with harvesting and pruning.


Roberts said many of the workers were "trim and fit," but it was a matter of understanding the importance of warm-ups and stretching.

"The warm-ups and cool downs are designed to avoid repetitive strain injuries associated with seasonal work."

"It's definitely a hard job and we want them to understand how good stretching is for the body. The people I'm working with at T&G are awesome, really helpful in terms of what I am aiming to do."

Because some of the group members speak little English, Roberts is planning to produce posters with translated instructions to help Pasifika workers follow the exercise programme.

He has also created two illustrated manuals, one outlining a dynamic stretching plan and the other a static stretching plan.

Roberts also joins in with the exercises as the men start their day in the orchard, taking 10-15 minutes to guide them through the work-outs, and will often pop back at the end of the day for a cool-down session.

Originally from Auckland, Roberts said he wasn't focused at school and didn't know what to focus on as a career choice.

"When I was younger, I didn't know what I wanted to do. Being older and having life skills on my side I realise what's important."


Roberts said he would continue working with seasonal workers until they returned home to Vanuatu at the end of the season in mid September.