Gisborne going bananas over new taxpayer-funded horticulture venture - 'Grow like topsy'

Poke around Gisborne backyards and you’ll see bunch after bunch of bananas growing like weeds.

Local enthusiast Trevor Mills says if you go out to Wainui Beach, "every second house has a banana plant growing in their backyard".

"With the climate change we've had in the last few years, middle of July, 2am in the morning and it's 16 degrees, well, bananas love that sort of treatment," Mr Mills said.

Gisborne locals have been growing bananas for decades, but now local company Tai Pukenga wants to see the business grow beyond the region.

Bananas are already grown successfully in Northland but they don't make it out of the region due to their popularity on the local market.

The plan in Gisborne would be to grow enough to be commercially viable and sell them nationwide.

Nearly $100,000 of taxpayers' funding has been granted by the Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation to Tai Pukenga and AgResearch to make it happen.

AgResearch scientist Dr Jane Mullaney says they’ll need to grow a lot more trees for it to be a success.

Dr Mullaney and her team have been touring the region, picking the brains of locals and collecting samples for testing.

"From there, [you] make a tissue culture that is basically amplifying these plants and give them the opportunity to grow much more and a lot faster."

Mr Mills says the plants, once in the ground, "grow like topsy".

"If you plant 50 plants, you will get 150 to 200 plants from that initial 50," he said.

Statistics NZ data shows New Zealand imports more than 87 million kilos of bananas annually, with the average Kiwi household spending $88 dollars on the fruit per year - over $20 more than its closest competitor, apples, at $61 a year.

Dr Mullaney says with modern day standards and greater awareness of where food comes from, there should be a market for bananas from Gisborne.

"It's not enough to go to a supermarket and say 'there is an apple, there is a banana', so I think we are learning to tell that story about where that food has come from and it is just as important as the food that we are eating," Dr Mullaney said.

If Tai Pukenga's plan comes to fruition, bananas from Gisborne could hit supermarket shelves in two years' time.

All going to plan, bananas from the region could hit shelves in two years’ time. Source: 1 NEWS



Watch: Auckland, Australia? Kendrick Lamar commits cardinal sin during epic NZ gig

One of hip hop's biggest stars, Kendrick Lamar, made an unforgivable geographical blunder at his show last night when he gave a shout out to being in "Auckland, Australia".

In the age of smart phones Lamar's mistake was inevitably caught on camera.

"We done had a lot of shows you know, but something told me that I can't wait to get to (expletive) Auckland, Australia you dig that?" he said while performing at Auckland's Spark Arena.

Some of the crowd appeared to catch the blunder, sending boos in the rapper's direction.

Lamar stepped out of a Les Mills with a large entourage and was gracious enough to stop for fans. Source: 1 NEWS

The US rap superstar was spotted posing for pictures with some lucky fans after emerging from a workout in an Auckland gym today.

Lamar stepped out of Les Mills on Victoria Street in Auckland's CBD this afternoon with a large entourage and was gracious enough to stop for fans.

The King Kunta hit-maker was working out after his energetic show.

He is performing again tonight as part of the New Zealand leg of The Damn tour that also travelled to Dunedin.

Lamar is currently at the height of his powers, his latest album DAMN having won the Grammy Award for Best Album and the Pulitzer Prize for Music this year.

The shining star of hip hop was brilliant on stage last night, except for one little thing. Source: Seven Sharp

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1 NEWS learns some disabled people being paid as little as 89 cents an hour to work in NZ - and it's legal

People with disabilities are being paid as little as 89 cents an hour to work in New Zealand, while hundreds are earning less than $5 an hour - and it's all legal.

In the last three years, 1500 minimum wage exemptions have been granted by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment for businesses that employ disabled people.

1 NEWS has learned that more than two-thirds of those workers are paid less than $5 an hour for their work.

Information obtained under the Official Information Act shows five of the lowest paid employees with disabilities earn less than $1 an hour - the minimum wage in New Zealand is $16.50.

One employee, who has Down syndrome and works in community service was being paid 89c.

A handful of others were earning 92c. The IHC's advocacy director, Trish Grant, says it's got to stop.

"The minimum wage exemptions are a weird arrangement where people earn very little money for working hard and that's not fair and it's not right," Ms Grant says.

EXPLOITATION

Ms Grant says in some cases vulnerable people are being exploited by bad operators.

"People earning less than a dollar an hour, they don't have any idea about their employment conditions, they may have an employment agreement but they're not getting annual leave or sick leave those sorts of things," she says.

The IHC has been lobbying successive government to change the rules.

"The Social Development Ministry and MBIE need to immediately review all of the practice so any poor practice doesn't continue.

"Also there needs to be some incentives for those businesses that are supporting disabled workers well, by improving their skills and by ensuring they have got some pathway to the open market," Ms Grant says.

The Government is looking to put an end to the minimum wage exemption for disabled workers.

The Minister for Disability Issues Carmel Sepuloni was blunt when asked what she made of it by 1 NEWS this week.

"It's not acceptable, actually we know that it's discriminatory, it runs against the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities."

Ms Sepuloni is waiting to receive more advice on what action to take this month.

At Southland Disability Enterprises in Invercargill, more than 80 staff with disabilities help to recycle the region's waste, as part of a special government contract.

While many are paid less than the minimum wage they also receive a separate disability allowance from the Government.

EMPLOYEE LOVES WORK

Cameron Frethey works there and specialises in dismantling computers and recycling wiring too.

Mr Frethey told 1 NEWS he loves going to work. "I make quite a lot of friends and it's also nice to help others."

His boss, General Manager Hamish McMurdo, is worried that if the Government isn't careful operations like his could become economically un-viable and his team could just end up being at home.

He says Southland Disability Enterprises puts enormous emphasis into social activities for their staff, and he says for them it's about more than money.

"We offer discos, dances, dinners out, get-togethers and really promote the social aspect of our family here really," he says.

Ms Sepuloni knows the Government will have to tread carefully.

"When we make any changes in this space we have to look at what the wider repercussions are.

We have to make sure it's fair and that they're no worse off - in fact, they should be better off."

- By 1 NEWS political reporter Benedict Collins 


Advocacy groups say it’s exploitation, but some in the sector, including workers, say it’s not all about the money. Source: 1 NEWS