Whānau a top priority

Whānau a top priority

Renee Heta.JPG

Renee Heta

Operations Manager – Kono Seafood

Renee talks about why working for Kono is a great match, her love of seafood, and why her whānau are so important to her.

 As Operations Manager at the Kono mussel processing factory in Blenheim, Renee is responsible for the day-to-day site operations.  “It’s a busy factory, running 24 hours a day, five to six days a week.  Any down-time in the weekends is taken up with the necessary maintenance work to keep the factory running on form,” Renee says.

The Kono mussel operation has around 230 staff on site during the mussel season, sending half-shell greenshell mussels to 25 countries.  At the start of every processing season, Kono runs a two-day induction to bring staff back on board.  Renee says it’s an awesome experience that gives value to everyone who attends and gets better every year. “This year some of our key staff presented across the two days. The leadership team were awesome and I was super proud. It’s not easy to talk in front of a big crowd but they did it with ease.”

Renee wasn’t originally planning a long-term career with Kono.  “Kono was supposed to be a pit stop for me, but as I got to know the people and the business better, along with understanding the values and knowing that I was a part of an intergenerational vision, it was easy for me to stay.”  She says the Kono value of whanaungatanga really resonates with her - recognising the work of many, not just one, when it comes to life and mahi. 

 “Whānau is really important to me and my partner Ana-marie.  I’m the oldest in a big family of five brothers and three sisters and I have a gazillion nieces and nephews. I love spending time with my nieces, nephews and whānau in general, they’re a cheeky, crazy fun-loving bunch.”  

Renee not only works with seafood during the day but enjoys it at home too. “There’s nothing like a tapas seafood dinner with a nice bottle of Tohu Hemi Chardonnay!”  She loves living in Te Tau Ihu and getting to the beaches and rivers in the warmer weather. “There’s so many places to go see and enjoy.”

Blossoming on our orchards

Blossoming on our orchards

As part of our Tangata Ora focus for this month Karla Bradley, pipfruit manager on our orchards, shares her reflections about the impact that spring growth in the orchard has on her wellbeing.

Karla was inspired by the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week this year - 'Mā te taiao e ora ai - let nature in, strengthen your wellbeing' - let nature in, strengthen your wellbeing'.​

"The new pear variety 'Piqa Boo' has unusual flowers. With their red leaves and black anthers, I noticed for the first time this year how striking they are compared to other pear blossoms. 

It's amazing how even after 13 years in the horticulture industry, apple and pear blossoms still have an overwhelming effect on my wellbeing. 

The sweet and fresh scent of the blossoms and the activity of the bees are a reminder that the winter months are over, and a new summer is on the way. 

As we get ready to dive into another growing season, the orchard almost pauses while we wait and watch the spring growth. 

It's a good time for reflection, and time to gather our thoughts before the pace of orchard life ramps up again.​"

A tradition of innovation

A tradition of innovation

Jarrod Robinson explains how family traditions, innovation and a passion for culture and food all come together in his role as New Product Development Manager at Kono.

As New Product Development Manager for Kono, Jarrod Robinson is responsible for the coordination process from idea through to a commercial food or beverage product. “Together we strive to sustainably add value to our primary resources from Te Tau Ihu, the top of the South Island,” says Jarrod.

Jarrod describes himself as a conceptual thinker and a connector of people. “As a qualified food technologist my mind is full of ideas and being part of the Kono team allows me to utilise this strength. I admire how Kono invests in innovation programmes and new product development. Together we are continuously looking how to do better things and how to best utilise our resources. Really exciting stuff!”

His passion for his connection to the Nelson region is clear when he talks about his family’s background. “My ancestors were pioneers of fruit, fruit wine and juice making in New Zealand. Established in 1910, Robinson’s of Stoke was the first company to commercially produce 100 percent fruit juice for the New Zealand market. They continued to innovate and over the years new product lines were introduced.  As the business expanded and changed, the original orchard made way for real estate development.” 

“I was passed down the cider making method from my grandfather and father...”

One of his proudest moments at Kono was the commercialisation of Tutū Cider. “I was passed down the cider making method from my grandfather and father. To see the cider have a new lease of life, and witness it win awards on the local and international stage was truly rewarding.”

When he’s not at work, Jarrod is indulging in his other passion – travel. “I love to experience new environments and cultures. I’m drawn to indigenous cultures and to see how communities work and live together. We can all learn a lot from each other.”  He and his husband, Drew, also love to host dinner parties. He describes his favourite go-to three course dinner: “Glaze chicken nibbles with miso and honey to start. Flash fry scallops with chorizo and serve on risotto with sautéed vegetables for main.  Then there is nothing like my mother-in-law’s Black Doris plum cheese cake with a gingernut base to finish off the meal!”

Jarrod says he was drawn to Kono because of its strong values and diversity of operations. “Coming from a family of innovators, the value of Hihiko resonates very strongly with me – curiosity and problem solving, always striving for improvement.”

Matariki - What & When?

Matariki - What & When?



What & When?


One of the most significant celebrations in the Māori calendar is Matariki, the indigenous New Year. Matariki is the Māori name for the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades. It rises in mid-winter – late May or early June. For early Māori, Matariki was strongly connected to the seasons and was an indicator of the forthcoming year.


Some iwi start celebrations when Matariki is first seen, however it is the first new moon after Matariki that officially signals the Māori New Year. Some people celebrate the New Year on the day the new moon rises, and others celebrate on the day after the new moon, which this year is June 15th. 

A passion for sustainability and people

A passion for sustainability and people

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Karla Bradley

Pipfruit Manager
(Ngāti Koata and Ngāti Kuia)

Karla is a Wakatū Owner, and is Pipfruit Manager in the Kono Horticulture team. 

Kono is the associated food and beverage business of Wakatū Incorporation. Wakatū has approximately 4,000 shareholders who descend from the original Māori landowners of the Nelson, Tasman and Golden Bay regions – Te Tau Ihu.

Karla has over a decade of experience in the horticulture industry and has been part of the Kono Horticulture team for six years. For the last two years, she has had the role of Pipfruit Manager, based in our orchards in Motueka. As Pipfruit Manager she runs the day-to-day activities at our apple and pear orchards.

“I love working at Kono. It’s firmly a Māori business and I enjoy how we weave the cultural aspects and our values into our work lives. I like how we recognise important events such as the start or completion of harvest with a dawn blessing at our rongo. In terms of kaitiakitanga, I get a buzz out of thinking about the sustainability of the land. Growing the apple and pear crops is my every day mahi, but I like thinking about how to make things better - that’s why I’m studying,” Karla says.

Karla has all but completed her Diploma of Horticulture via Lincoln University. “Balancing working full-time with studying has been a challenge at times, particularly around the timing of the academic year with the horticultural year – my exams falling at the same time as harvest wasn’t ideal – but I survived!”

“Manaakitanga is another value that really resonates with me. I just love working with people. This role isn’t just taking care of crops. Caring for people is an important aspect as well.”

“I’m passionate about sustainability, and encouraging more women and young girls to consider a career in horticulture. I’ve helped set up Grow NZ Women, a women's horticulture network group to encourage more women to enter the industry and to take their horticulture careers further.”

Outside of work, Karla is passionate about sport, and plays netball and touch rugby. She has is also been busy building a new home with her partner and Dad on a piece of land in Puketūtū, one of the Wakatū subdivisions in Motueka.

Karla’s advice to anyone thinking of working at Wakatū Incorporation?

“If you think about something that you are really good at, and something that you enjoy, you’ll find a career opportunity in one of Wakatū Incorporation’s businesses – whether it’s being outdoors working on the land, being creative in our sales and marketing team, or working with numbers in our business support team, there are heaps of opportunities to find something that matches your skills and passions.”

Karla’s ‘get right to it’ attitude to work and life is reflected in her response to the question of whether she has a favourite whakataukī or saying. “I like the saying ‘walk the walk’ – let your actions do the talking!”

  • Want to join Karla and the Horticulture team? At Kono we ensure the development of a place where talented people want to live and work; a community that talented people love to be a part of. We are one of the largest employers in the Nelson and Marlborough region with a variety of jobs in viticulture, horticulture, aquaculture and food production including sales and marketing and research and innovation.
    Get in touch or browse our current vacancies.

The K Icon

Last year we introduced our new ‘K’ icon for Kono. Our K icon speaks of who we are, our rich legacy steeped in a culture that nourishes our land and people in sustainable ways. We are kaitiaki and our promise is love for the land, respect for the sea.

Recently we collaborated with talented sand artist Marcus Winter (the Sandman) on a new way of telling the story behind our icon  – we invite you to watch and enjoy

A business of families, and a family of businesses

We love storytelling at Kono. As a business of families, and a family of businesses, we are really proud to have partnered with the NZ Story on a video that gives an insight into our every day - who we are, where we come from, where we are heading, and what is behind our promise of love for land, respect for the sea.  Ka mau te wehi.

Gate to the globe

A few weeks back you could see Tohu Wines take over New York! Make sure you tune in and watch this inspiring new series telling the amazing success stories of Maori Exports into some of the most sophisticated markets on the planet.