Eight finalists from Kaikohe to Invercargill have been confirmed for the Rural Contractors New Zealand Trainee Contractor of the Year award.

All come from the ranks of those who joined the HanzonJobs initiative which sees trainees record their daily work experiences, supported by employers and mentors. Finalists will now compete for two $3,000 study awards sponsored by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

“These are the best of the best selected from more than 100 HanzonJobs-registered trainees and thoroughly deserve their place in the finals,” says Rural Contractors New Zealand (RCNZ) CEO Andrew Olsen.

One winner from each of the South and North Islands will be selected by the judges.

The South Island finalists are:

  • Alex Oakden, Strange Contracting Ltd, Takaka.
  • Josh Chittock, Oxford Agricultural Services Ltd, Oxford
  • Agustin Neuber, D Thompson Contracting Ltd, Invercargill
  • Liam Rooney, Mark Carey Contracting Ltd, Motueka

The North Island finalists are:

  • Ethan Ballard, R and K Thomas Contracting, Kaikohe
  • Mat Peart, Sims Contractors Ltd, Otaki
  • Waka Tuhakaraina, Slattery Contracting Ltd, Matamata
  • Brendon Bergs, A. T. Cook Contracting Ltd, Atiamuri

“We’re really proud to be able to put this programme together for our industry,” says Andrew Olsen. “We could not have done it without Richard Houston who has driven the HanzonJobs programme initiative, and MPI which backed it and now is generously supporting the awards.”

Richard says, “The awards don’t just recognise the trainee they also highlight the effort provided by their employers. A trainee’s growth and development are evident in their record of work and behind that is an employer or mentor who’s given them the guidance and training to build experience in our industry.”

Beth Davie, Workforce Manager at MPI says, “The Rural Contractors New Zealand Trainee Contractor of the Year awards provide a great way to celebrate and acknowledge trainee rural contractors, while also helping to further their learning. We’re proud to be backing the awards, and we congratulate all of the finalists.” The awards are one of the ways MPI is supporting the food and fibre sector workforce, along with other initiatives such as the Opportunities Grow Here campaign.

The next step for the eight finalists is to meet the judging panel, taking place June 29. The judges are:

  • Peter Ettema, Director, Regional Economic Development at MPI, and a highly regarded Ahuwhenua Trophy judge for Māori farming excellence.
  • Kyle Baxter, Professional Lead Tractors and Machinery for Norwood as well as the current President of TAMA (Tractor and Machinery Association).
  • Emily Hawker, Human Resources & Health and Safety Manager at Waipounamu Contracting Ltd in Southland.

Finalists will be provided with specific primary industry topics to research and present to the judges.

Both winners will receive a trophy and training bursary of $3,000 from MPI to be used on advancing their career and knowledge.