Packhouse credits Māori trust 'angels with needles' for vax stats

Source: 1News

A kiwifruit and avocado packhouse and their "angels with needles" have gone the extra mile to support their workforce of more than 700 staff by becoming a focal point for vaccination efforts in the community.

Trevelyan’s Kiwifruit and Avocado in Te Puke set up a vaccine clinic inside one of their packhouses and put on information seminars for staff, bringing in health workers and community leaders to help make a difference to those more hesitant about getting the jab.

Managing director James Trevelyan said it has resulted in almost all of their "village" now being fully vaccinated.

"We’ve got probably 30 different nationalities working with us at the moment," Trevelyan said.

"The vaccination has been quite a journey but we’re sitting at about 83 per cent for fully vaccinated and first vaccinated.

"I’m confident we can get to the 90 per cent."

Trevelyan said he was inspired to get as much help for his staff as he could to make the process as "easy peasy" for them as possible.

Although he said it wasn’t just his efforts that got his workforce to the impressive figures they’re at.

"I’m probably stealing the thunder out of the great Poutiri Trust in Te Puke," he said.

"They’ve been fantastic to work with; they’ve come to us, worked on site, done canteens and drivethru, worked with the local DHB."

Poutiri Trust is a Māori development organisation established in 1997 to coordinate and promote a network of Māori health care providers throughout the western, eastern and southern Bay of Plenty regions.

The kiwifruit industry needs 20,000 workers, but its usual allotment of overseas travellers will have a hard time entering New Zealand.

"Their outlook on life, they’re out there in the community probably making us look good," Trevelyan said.

"They’re the real stars here to be honest ... angels with needles. They’re full of soul."

Trevelyan said his company and the trust are now working with the more hesitant staff who have "a different health strategy" and showing them respect in their decisions.

"We’ve brought in three sets of the DHB’s doctors in just for Q and A sessions and you can slowly see we’re turning a few," he said.

"Now we’re looking for mentors in the community that they can feel confident with who aren’t telling them what to do so they can have a respectable conversation.

"We’ll get there but some days it’s an inch-by-inch process."

Trevelyan said they and the trust organise big drives for vaccination to get as many treated as possible, opening the effort to the wider community to help everyone. That includes workers from rival orchards in the same area.

His advice to businesses looking to see their own workforce become vaccinated was simple: "Be respectful and make sure they’ve got the right mentors in there so they can ask the questions of an independent they have trust in and they don’t perceive you as pushing someone into a decision."