Primary industries – agriculture, forestry and horticulture

Using Mātauranga to grow a prosperous workforce, to ensure the people of Taitokerau can stay in the rohe or come home to earn decent wages for decent employment, is a key objective of the Group.

Pineapple farm

He Rakau kāpuia, e kore e whawhati
The bundle of sticks is unable to be broken (compatibility, durability, tenacity, endurance)

Pilots by the Te Rūnanga o Te Rarawa and Te Hiku Development Trust to increase sustainable work in this core economic backbone of the economy, are also part of the innovative and best practices highlighted in this report and supported by the RSLG.

With a reputation for high quality and safe food, lots of sunshine hours and very few days below 10 degrees, Taitokerau has a growing horticulture sector and a longestablished dairying and farming sector. The region is second only to the Bay of Plenty for kiwifruit and avocadoes but also grows kumara, citrus, mandarins and olives.

The impact of border closures as a COVID-19 response has been felt in the Taitokerau labour market but not to the same degree as other regions. Generally employers mostly draw on local labour, with just 6% from backpackers and 23% from RSE workers (2018). More and more local people are being employed in primary industries.

Labour market insights

With over 8,000 jobs, this sector is the third largest in Taitokerau. Despite having fewer people employed in dairying and in grain, sheep and beef cattle farming in the past 5 years, they still employ the largest farming workforce. And they remain a significant economic contributor across our sub-regions with 29% of the region’s dairying GDP coming for the Far North, 35% from Kaipara and 36% from Whangārei.

Northland Region economic profile(external link) — Infometrics

There is increasing employment in the horticulture and fruit growing sector (including avocados) alongside forestry and logging with over 500 additional jobs since 2016. This more than offsets the job losses in the other primary industries sector such as dairying; grain, sheep and cattle beef farming; seafood processing, poultry farming and sawmilling.

Regional Economic Forceasts(external link) — Infometrics

With over 8,000 jobs, this sector is the third largest in Taitokerau.

Horticulture - What are the jobs and skills in the sector?

120 fruit or nut orchard managers (includes kiwifruit, avocadoes and blueberries) will be required over the next five years mostly to replace those retiring or leaving the sector. While no formal qualifications are required, Careers NZ advise that a Level 4 diploma or a science degree in horticulture would be useful.

In the horticulture sector the number of employers is reducing as holdings are consolidated alongside iwi investing in market gardens and kiwifruit orchards across the rohe. As corporatisation increases, there is an emerging need to upskill supervisory and middle management roles to meet the needs of expanding workforces.

Regional Economic Forceasts(external link) — Infometrics

120 fruit or nut orchard managers (includes kiwifruit, avocadoes and blueberries) will be required over the next 5 years.

Agriculture - What are the jobs and skills in the sector?

Even though dairy cow numbers have been declining since 2014 and now number 250,631 off a peak of 303,958 in 2001, the number of herds are also declining which suggests a consolidation of holdings as well. The current dairy pay-out is the second highest since 2014 and in aggregate was $607m; this is about 7% of GDP in 2021 and the largest export, but less than 1% of Aotearoa New Zealand’s total dairy export. There are strong opportunities in the sector with 352 dairy farmers (farm managers) required over the next 5 years – about 70 per year.

Regional Economic Forceasts(external link) — Infometrics

While no formal qualifications are required for entry, once again Careers NZ recommend certificate, diploma and/or defrees in science, commerce, business or economics. Most of the job openings in dairy manager jobs are to replace those retiring as Taitokerau has a high proportion of farmers aged 65 years plus; this forecast is based on the premise that most will seek to retire at 65 years of age.

The current dairy pay-out is the second highest since 2014 and in aggregate was $607m.

Forestry - What are the jobs and skills in the sector?

With increasing world-wide stimulus in infrastructure projects post-pandemic, alongside New Zealand’s own housing growth, future demand is positive for the forestry sector. Our region has the third largest area of planted forests (11%) and a further 13,357 hectares is being planted under the One Billion Trees Crown Forestry Partnership.

Most forests planted in Northland were planted in the early 1990s (like many regions in New Zealand) and are being harvested now and next year. Volumes are forecasted to decline – halving from 600 (000 m3) by 2025 and not expected to be back up to 300 (000 m3) until 2035.

Ministry for Primary Industries: Wood Availability Forecast – New Zealand 2021 to 2060 [PDF 4MB](external link)

The transition from manual work to mechanised and automated operations is advancing more rapidly than earlier forecasts; some in the sector say 5 years away not 15 years away after all. 23 log plant operators will be required over the next 5-year period while 187 forestry labourers (including tree fellers and logging assistants) will be required to fill job openings.

Northland Region economic profile(external link) — Infometrics

What are the labour market gaps?

Most of the students who study horticulture and agriculture in Taitokerau, do so at levels 1-3. These qualifications appear to be more than adequate to fill the job openings available. While the number of students completing studies at level 4 and 5-7 are fewer, they appear adequate. Few students study at degree level, and with advances in automation and climate change -responsive growing practices, this is an area for promotion or encouragement to upskill.

Taitokerau students are mostly studying for entry level roles in forestry.50 Micro-credentialing and other upskilling initiatives will be important to ensure that the opportunities for those fewer higher-paid roles offered by automation can be captured locally.

Northland Region economic profile(external link) — Infometrics

Typical perceptions of the forestry sector are that the work is physically demanding, conducted in an inhospitable environment, with poor safety, low wages, and that the industry is male-dominated. These are just some of the challenges faced in attracting and retaining workers, particularly wāhine.

Maintaining a stable workforce across 12 months of the year remains a challenge for horticultural industries. Crop diversification and keeping more broadly-skilled workers on to do maintenance work are a key part of the local solutions. For some sub-contracting activities, a single employer (Te Rūnanga o Te Rarawa, Te Hiku Development Trust) now holds the employment relationships and is able to deploy staff across other sites.

Overall action plan

  • Ensure a sustainable and productive workforce with access to decent jobs with wrap-around pastoral care to whi workers.
  • To support the need for both lower-skilled and high-skilled workers in the horticulture sector, we must:
    • Work with industry to manage mitui-employer contracts (lower-skilled workers) to ensure a stable worker pipeline.
    • Support development of programmes for degrees in horticultural science and rural leadership to encourage workforce and entrepreneur workforce skills.
    • Increase access and enrolment in critical areas of education e.g. Bachelor of Agricultural science, Horticulture Science and Forestry Science.
    • Encourage graduates of specialist and other subjects. E.g. IT, Engineering, Robotics into the sector.
    • Increase enrolment beyond basic level 1-3 up into level 4-6 certificate and diploma qualifications.