Seeka opens its new RSE accommodation

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Kiwifruit giant Seeka has opened its new accommodation for RSE workers at its Aongatete facility in the Western Bay. The opening drew a large crowd of staff, local iwi representatives, and regional dignitaries.

Michael Franks, Seeka’s chief executive officer told the crowd the building was symbolic of the relationships the company wanted to have.

“We are very proud of the building and the construction teams have done a great job in delivering a great facility,” said Franks.

“But if you think about it, it is only a building, it’s just bits of wood and tin really – what is important to us is that it is symbolic of the relationships we want to have and the strong relationships we are building with local mana tangata whenua and our RSE employees.”

The opening saw representatives from Ngai Tamawhariua, Ngai Tukairangi, Ngai Te Rangi and Seeka gathered to bless and open Seeka’s RSE accommodation, Turanga Whetu.

Seeka’s Kaumatua, Turi Ngatai of Ngai Tukairangi led the Kawanga Whare along with George Burt from Ngai Tamawhariua and Kaumatua Ngairoa Eruera. Each room in the facility was blessed and the accommodation was formally provided with its name, Turanga Whetu with Ngai Tukairangi Kuia, Kura Benton and Ngai Tamawhariua Kuia, Kerewai Wanakore unveiling the accommodations signage.

Turi linked the facility to the Ngati Maniapoto proverb, Tokanganui a noho, which refers to Home Sweet Home, linking local Iwi, Seeka and Seeka’s RSE employees together as one community.

Following the Kawanga Whare, a grand opening was held with Western Bay of Plenty Mayor, James Denyer, National Party MP, Sam Uffindell, and candidates Tom Rutherford of National and Pare Taikato of Labour in attendance. The grand opening concluded with performances by Samoan RSE and local Iwi representatives.

Seeka first became involved with the RSE pilot scheme, AIP, in 2007, which went on to become the RSE Programme in 2009. Seeka currently supplements its local workforce with RSE employees from Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, Fiji, and Malaysia.

Building relationships

Seeka’s chairman, Fred Hutchings also spoke about the importance of building relationships. He said the company was founded on relationships. “Both with our growers, who by selecting Seeka, are choosing a partner that values a high-quality labour force with the ability to produce excellent results. And relationships with our team of inspirational people both from our home here in New Zealand and those who come to us from abroad.”

Hutchings also referred to the name of the facility, stating that “Turanga Whetu” referred to Star Base and living under one sky. He added that the RSE location provided a brilliant view of the Southern Cross, a constellation that connected RSE workers with their home abroad and their secondary new home here in New Zealand. The new accommodation was built to be “their home away from home”, said Hutchings.

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